By Suzannah Peckham
I have spent the last four years as an active member of Journalism Workshop; I started with quite literally no experience. I hardly knew how a newspaper was laid out, let alone how to write a story for one.
While in the class I have watched the media cover numerous major events, and I have learned why and how articles were written. I have been taught many things that have reshaped aspects of my life, especially how I work academically.
It is bittersweet to see my time at MPH and in the Journalism class come to an end. I’ve loved being a part of something that affects change on a bigger scale. Being in this class for so long has had its perks — like hoards of doughnuts.
When I first started, we were a newspaper that published four times a year; now we are a full-color magazine, shifting from eight pages of stories to a full 32 or more. During my sophomore year, though we entirely rebranded into a full-color magazine, we still published two full issues of the newspaper.
My junior year we drafted a mission statement and started a website. This year presented one of the largest challenges I’ve faced in this class: live coverage. Since we publish the magazine only once or twice a year, we have never had the chance to handle live coverage. The opportunity arose after the abundance of shootings at schools this past year — students rallied together and organized walkouts across the country, including at MPH. The journalism team had to find a way to cover that event live.
After preparation before and reporting during the event, several of us worked hard to write an article about what had transpired. We had just barely 15 minutes to write the story, and it was completely terrifying. I wanted to do everything I could to ensure that I did the story justice, and that the events were fully covered.
When I first joined the class in January of 2015, I had no idea what I was about to get into or that this class would remain in my schedule for every following semester. I gave up classes to keep this one in my schedule. Because of Journalism, so many things changed. For example, at the beginning of my freshman year, I thought I wanted to write novels. Now, as my senior year winds down, I want to attend college and study business law.
This change isn’t because of some disliking I’ve developed for journalism or for writing stories, but because the future of journalism and the media is so uncertain. There is no promise that what you write isn’t going to upset the masses, which isn’t something new — what’s new is the fear of being jailed or fined for what you print.
President Donald Trump states that the media is the enemy of the people, but it isn’t. A journalist’s job is to uncover the truth because, as The Washington Post eloquently states, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”
With all of the uncertainty I face, I can’t place enough trust in the future to remain involved with journalism. Although I do understand that now, more than ever, the people need strong journalists, it is just not something I want to be a part of anymore. It breaks my heart to have to say this. I love writing about the people, for the people and in defense of the people, but I cannot bear to live with the constant changes that come along with the industry.
Having said that, despite everything that the media is suffering right now, I wish I could encourage more people to take the class. The process of writing a journalistic story changes many things about you. It opens a whole new perspective for writing. Even the students who only take the class for a single semester somehow find major changes in the way they write.
Writing in-depth, well and with a strict deadline is so much different than writing a paper for a class. Having just one teacher critique it versus having the public read it and critique you is so different. There’s all of that, plus your name attached to the top of the article, published for anyone to see.
I wish to leave one parting message for those who still will be here at MPH and may have an extra free block, or even might have an interest in the class. Just do it. Take the leap. Become a part of something far greater, because at the end of the day, this class is going to change your outlook on a lot of things. Even if you do not plan on continuing as a journalist, the class gives you skills that will be beneficial for anything you choose to do in the future.