Students often wonder exactly what they can do with a journalism major. It is obvious that you will be trained to work at a newspaper, magazine, online news or feature site, television or radio station, but journalism actually teaches many skills that are useful in many jobs.
The following, adapted from an article by Tim Gallagher in the Nov. 25, 2015 issue of Editor and Publisher magazine, details the skills all journalism majors will possess upon graduation:
Rapidly synthesize complicated information. Journalists take it for granted that they can take notes during a four-hour meeting and then compose 800 words that capture the essential actions. This is an exceptional skill.
Make a deadline. In all the disciplines across the newspaper industry, deadlines are sacrosanct and daily. But talk to people in many other industries and they find deadlines, well, deadly. They are blown off or pushed back. The fact that you can make a deadline each day makes you valuable.
Compose coherent sentences. Even write some that sing. In the newsroom, we get used to a minimum level of composition competency. Step outside the business for a few weeks and you will appreciate those who can take subject-verb-object and write it clearly, and often with panache. This ability is not to be taken for granted.
Ask questions. Sometimes in my new job I am interviewed by a journalist who just won’t run out of questions. That’s great. A natural curiosity makes one smarter.
Great facial architecture. The best journalists remember that the head has two eyes, two ears and one mouth. According to that ratio, one should listen and observe four times as often as one speaks. This is crucial in another career you are just learning.
The ability to reserve judgment. Newspaper people learn to wait and listen with disinterest. The best never take a side. They explore points of view and ask for facts. But they never choose a side. No matter what field you might enter, the ability to stay neutral (until there is time to take a position) is important to building the strongest position. Aristotle advised us to know the other side as well as we know our own position.
Manage multiple projects. The best people in our business keep several balls moving at once. They can drop one to work another. This isn’t prevalent in everyone’s skill set.
Motivate. If you’ve been a manager in the business for the past decade and managed to keep your team focused on moving ahead in spite of the challenges, then you are exceptional. You’re a great motivator and other industries need that skill.
Creatively problem solve. Some of my newspaper colleagues once put out a newspaper after an earthquake that knocked out power by powering laptops with a car’s battery. Enough said. We know how to work under difficult circumstances.
Know the ins and outs of a community and who makes it run. We take for granted our knowledge of civics and which level of government or which business leaders make our communities work. If you move outside the newspaper industry, that intimate knowledge will make you exceptional.