The Write Stuff: Editor-in-chief recounts rewards from journalism experiences

There isn’t a greater class to take than journalism if you are itching to impact lives.

You get to prove your creativity to an actual audience that other writing classes cannot provide. More so than any other English class, you get real world experience that will help you in your future no matter what avenue you decide to take. Communication is key in every aspect of life, and when you blend that with time management, innovation and individuality, journalism is one of the most beneficial classes you can take. “Anyone who is naturally curious and inquisitive and has an ability to communicate should have an avenue to explore a career that nurtures those talents,” Michael Lee, lead NBA writer for the Washington Post told me recently.

Everyone has a story just waiting to be told. Writing for the paper isn’t just finding scores to basketball games or discovering a change in study hall. It’s about bringing a story to life because that’s what journalists are: storytellers.

Throughout the stories I have personally written, it has been the stories that went beyond the surface level that have made the greatest impact. I went into interview Trey Hansen, the quarterback of the football team who also doubled as one of the best long snappers in the country thinking my story was about that. What I found, however, was a student who happened to play football, but who was also driven on and off the field by the death of his best friend. The story reached his old city in Minnesota and produced many tears in the Cedar Valley as well. “The article really changed my life and gave a great life lesson to be thankful,” Hansen said. “It really hit home to my old town four hours away.”

Another time I was going to simply write about the upcoming swim team meet. I walked into the pool area and immediately realized there was so much more than just swimming going on. I saw a love for a sport that I had never seen before, through the eyes of a 75-year-old man who started the swim program at Cedar Falls. I brought that man to tears after he read the story I wrote about how much he loved, not only the sport he has given his life to, but every single student athlete on the team.

Multiple people came up to me after I wrote a story on a student who is atheist and told me their eyes had been opened. They previously judged him for being atheist before they knew his story, but after reading the article produced in the newspaper, they understood that they had mislabeled him and gained the respect for him that they realized they should have always had.

The stories I have written for the newspaper have brought many tears to people I have never met, caused people to give up social media for the betterment of their lives, changed perspectives, connected people 2,000 miles apart, and, most importantly, the stories I produce in the journalism class have impacted lives of not only the people who read them, but for those who are the focal points of the stories that allow themselves to be uncovered.

Now many people may believe that journalism is dying and that the students of today will have a nearly impossible task of finding a job in the field when their times come. People say that the Internet, technology and social media are forcing journalism into nonexistence.

To that I would say that journalism is absolutely not dying; it is evolving like many things over the course of human history. This isn’t the first time that media was supposedly dying due to something new. Radio was supposed to kill the printed word. Television was supposed to kill radio, and the Internet was supposed to kill broadcasting. But if you are living in the 21st century, then you can see that those circumstances obviously didn’t transpire.

“Anyone who thinks journalism is a dying field isn’t paying attention to this world and how information and technology have given anyone with a smartphone or tablet the capacity to express themselves and report on what’s happening around them,” Lee said.

Journalism teacher Brian Winkel has taught me many things in and out of the journalism world throughout my life, but the most important thing I have taken from him is something that applies to both worlds. “By giving to others and by making them happy, you will in turn make yourself happy.”

By writing a story about someone and showing how important they are, you have given them a very valuable gift, but you have also given that gift to yourself. You get a certain feeling of immense pleasure when you write a good story. You get ancy and start looking for your next story so you can put your mark on the world once again. That feeling and those stories will never go away, and neither will journalism. “There will always be a place for talented writers, reporters and editors,” Lee said. “There will always be a public for what journalists provide.”

When I became interested in journalism, I was immersed in the idea that I could talk about sports for a living one day. After getting into the field, I realized the only thing I love more than sports is people and bringing their stories to life in ways a good journalist can. The values of a good journalist are what our country was built off of; honesty, hard work and persistence.

“Journalism is one of the American public’s systems of checks and balances,” Tim Crothers, former Sports Illustrated senior writer and New York Times bestselling author told me. “If we are doing our jobs correctly, journalists are truth seekers who hopefully hold everyone, including themselves, to a proper standard of behavior.”

Journalism is storytelling, and there will never come a day that stories will not be told. It is, however, evolving, which is a good thing. It is becoming more technological while at the same time becoming more opportunistic. Success stories of small websites and bloggers making it big exemplify the new world of journalism. The places you will go and the people that you will meet alone will be well worth your involvement in journalism. But the lives you impact and the difference you will make in the world will last forever.

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