"So, you're an English major, right?" Actually, I'm not.
Let me clarify one thing: I have nothing against the English major or English majors in general. One of my best friends is an English major. My sophomore year roommate was an English major. One of the brothers from BlimeyCow, Jordan Taylor, was an English major and I love his content. I have NOTHING against the English major at all - it's just not for me.
When I was deciding on a major before applying to college, the only two I was considering were psychology and journalism. There were only two places I looked at, and after finding Messiah College, I never finished my other application (it was to Liberty and I'm thankful that I never completed it). I looked through the programs at Messiah and was so drawn into the journalism program that it wasn't even a question, I was going to be a journalism major.
For the people who know that I want to be a novelist, it probably raises the question of why I didn't become an English major with a writing concentration. It would make sense for me to be in the English department if my goal was to write a book and be published. But I being an English major had never appealed to me.
See, I knew that I didn't want to teach. I knew that I didn't want to become a librarian. So that kind of threw the English major out the window for me. I knew that my interests didn't line up with what the English major could offer me and that it wasn't something I wanted to spend four years of my life on. On the other hand, journalism offered a wider range of options for me and my interest.
I saw journalism as a stepping stone. It's a field heavily focused on writing, both print and in script form. I had a feeling that I would enjoy journalism enough to stay in the field after graduation if I had to, while still having the flexibility of writing fiction on the side. Thinking about it realistically, I also knew that journalism would give me the chance to work in a wide variety of fields, including print journalism, broadcast journalism, PR, communications, and publishing.
What I feared about being an English major was that it would ruin my love of reading. I was afraid that in having to analyze all these books and read a ton of classics, I would eventually stop reading or find myself annoyed at having to read. I could never imagine something making me hate reading, but being an English major would probably have done that for me. And again, it's nothing against the major or the professors or the people who are in that major - it's just not for me and it wouldn't have done me any good if I had tried being in that major.
Choosing journalism ended up being the right thing. I didn't do much with it during my freshman year, but I really began to explore the field in my sophomore year. One of our requirements is to have 4 credit hours of student media (160 hours in total) across all four years of school, so I had to get really involved in different kinds of student media to get even 40 hours in a semester. Part of that led me to learn how to do some basic radio broadcasting stuff, along with pitching a weekly column that I've written for over a year now, and becoming a part of Messiah's tv station. I got to explore the different sides of journalism and see what I enjoyed.
Spring of sophomore year and fall of junior year is probably when I was the most involved in both writing for The Pulse and being part of MC-77. To clarify, the Pulse is the overall student media hub. Under the Pulse is the radio, online website, yearbook, and the Swinging Bridge magazine. MC-77 is the television station separate from the Pulse for budgeting reasons, as well as a because of what it tends to focus on in terms of news.
Being part of both outlets let me see the pros and cons of print and broadcast. It became more and more apparent to me as time went on that I still loved print more than anything else. Broadcasting was a lot of fun - reading scripts, being on TV, hosting live music talent and doing interviews - it challenged me in many ways, for which I'm very grateful. It's taught me good interviewing skills on camera and how to make someone comfortable when they're being interviewed. But no matter what, I loved putting together a story on the page rather than visually.
Journalism has taught me to be more concise with my writing (ironic when my blog posts are so long, isn't it?) and how important it is to explore the different angles of a story. The best stories can take an unusual angle that most people wouldn't think of. Same goes for fiction. I'd like to think that having to find an interesting angle with news stories has taught me to be a better writer and has helped me put together a story in a more entertaining manner.
I haven't strayed entirely from my creative roots, if that was ever a concern you had. I do have a minor in creative writing, so I'm still somewhat part of the English department (my minor advisor still has yet to acknowledge my existence outside of mass emails). Seeing the serious side of journalism mesh with the fluidity of creative writing gives me a better idea of what kind of writer I want to be, and what kind of stories I like telling.
When it comes to the misconception that I'm an English major, I have to say that it bothers me because people tend to assume that just because I read and write, that means I'm an English major. Those two things aren't mutually exclusive to English majors. I've met a ton of other people who love to read and love to write, but have chosen to be in other majors. Also, it's very different to be a creative writer and a journalist. We have different training in a lot of areas, most of which are quite opposite to each other. Journalism/communications also has its own rules for editing, known as AP style. I have a lot of feelings about people saying that English majors can write the same ways that a journalist can, and trust me, most of them are not very good feelings. It's really different, and there needs to be an acknowledgment that being an English major doesn't automatically equate to being a good journalist. And if you want proof of that, I have stories that show exactly why there's a big difference.
Sure, the two can be similar in that they're both heavily reading and writing based, but the skillset required is different. One of the biggest things being how stories are viewed and that journalists do more interviews. The people skills required for journalists force more human interaction that it does for English majors, unless it's English education. I just...don't appreciate the immediate assumption. It also often makes me feel like people think that English majors are the only ones who can read or write.
Now that I'm done with my junior year, I think that being in the journalism field has really prepared me for a wider variety of things than I could have explored with an English major. Seeing as I'm also not looking to go to grad school any time soon, journalism really has given me a lot of experience in things that I can apply to a job immediately. Working at the Pulse as the Culture Editor also looks good on a résumé and builds my skillset to hopefully enter the publishing industry after graduation as an editor.
Looking back at the choice I made before coming to Messiah, I can't imagine doing things differently. There's no way I would be this happy doing anything else. The friends that I've made in this major (pictured above), the friends I've made in similar majors, the stories I've gotten to tell and work on, and the experiences I've had are completely unique to being in this field. And even if I don't end up in publishing immediately, I do enjoy being part of a magazine enough to do something like that for a few years before trying to get into the publishing industry again.
One thing that will never change no matter what industry I end up working in is me writing novels and trying to get them to a point where they could be queried for agent representation and publication. Journalism has and will continue to open doors for me, and I'm willing to follow where that goes until I can (hopefully) make it as a full-time writer.