Coming into the journalism major, I had a lot of new things to learn. The writing style is so different from what I’m used to, and I spent the majority of my first year at Messiah learning how to write in AP style.
There are a lot of things in AP style that are different, but the biggest thing I had to learn was to write with a more detached style. I could no longer put myself into the article, something I was used to doing in my fiction writing. Learning to write without putting my opinions and thoughts into the article while keeping it readable and personable to the audience was a difficult balance for me to strike.
My freshman year, I only wrote one article for The Pulse. I chose it because it was easy and not a lot of research was involved. It ended up being a good article for me to ease myself into the world of journalistic writing. In my sophomore year, I pitched the idea of a column to the Online Editor. She needed some regular content and I thought it would be good to have a weekly column that would not only allow me to practice my journalistic skills, but also provide a steady flow of articles for the online website.
Collaborating with my roommate at the time, Maggie, we wrote a column called Daily De-Stressors. Each week, we took turns writing the column for the online site, using both our interests to come up with ideas for people to de-stress throughout the week. That column was briefly given to another writer while I settled into my role as Culture Editor for the Swinging Bridge Magazine, and I took it back in the spring with the intention of turning it into a segment for the TV station.
Part of my training as a journalism major requires me to be comfortable and familiar with scripts for radio and television. I learned some of that at my first real journalism class, Writing for Mass Media, but the practice didn’t really kick in until I began working more with the TV station, MC-77, and going on air for different parts of the show. When I hosted the live music/talent segment, I learned to write questions for TV and to interview someone with three cameras pointing at us. Anchoring meant writing scripts about sports and trying to get a whole event to fit into a 30-45 second script piece. I learned a lot about what it meant to write for the ear instead of writing a script like an article piece.
It wasn’t until this past year that I began writing more consistently in every form. I had scripts due every week for class or for TV, my column was a weekly piece that I had to turn in, and I wrote articles for the Swinging Bridge Magazine each month and edited articles that other writers were turning in to me. In both semesters, I had the opportunity to cover a wide variety of stories for both the magazine and the online site. Writing about important panel discussions, things that were affecting my campus directly, it really opened my eyes to what kind of journalist I could be and what I wanted to be.
Getting the experience in editing was also a huge part of me learning to be a better writer. It wasn’t about fixing another writer’s work, but doing what I could to help make the story the best that it could be. Seeing how my writers were taking a topic and turning it into a full story was exciting, and seeing how all the pieces came together for each issue of the magazine was really inspiring.
The past few years of writing for all the different outlets of The Pulse made my own writing change in a lot of ways. I’ve learned to be more concise in storytelling, to set the scene in a clearer way, and to improve the flow of a story. While journalism still isn’t something I plan to go into full-time or long-term, these skills I’ve gained in the process have been so valuable to my writing and to my understanding of the industry.