Finding the Right Words: Life as a College Journalist
The role of a journalist differs from that of any other writer because it relies on honesty.
By Molly Tavoletti, Ohio State University
When someone asks me why I love to write, ironically, I usually have trouble finding the right words.
In my mind, writing just makes sense. It is my way of getting the things in my head—my thoughts, dreams, hopes, fears—out of my head and onto paper, breathing life to them.
And now, at the onset of my 20s, I find myself embracing this most exciting time in a young person’s life by transforming my passion for writing into a career. I know the value of choosing something that’s more than a paycheck—something I can be excited about for the next 40 or 50 years.
And so without hesitation, I declared a major in Public Affairs Journalism and Political Science.
In a word, the journalism program at Ohio State has been incredible. Classes like Media Writing and Editing give me valuable tools necessary to be a thriving professional journalist in today’s world. I am gaining exposure to international events in order to maintain an understanding of what is happening in the world today—something I believe all college students, regardless of major, should be required to do.
I am also learning to elements of editing—how to edit copy and editing symbols, all found in the journalists’ bible, the AP Stylebook. Through these skills I was able to secure a position at Ohio State’s student newspaper, as the Health and Fitness Columnist.
Though these technical classes have been very helpful with my building a strong writing foundation, Ohio State has offered me much more than that through classes like Digital Media Composition and Writing Contemporary Issues in American Politics–the latter being my favorite class at Ohio State thus far.
I’ll admit that I entered the class with a chip on my shoulder. I thought I was the best writer I could be, and that I was going to blow everyone away with my papers—spoiler alert: I was wrong.
On day one of the class, the professor, Dr.Randall Schweller (a man I’ve gained the utmost respect for), torn down every single thing I thought attributed to good writing. He flipped my world upside down and pushed me so far beyond my comfort zones when it came to writing—something of which I am forever thankful.
Through his class I learned not only skills in reading political articles and writing about them, but more importantly, I learned perhaps the most important lesson for any young writer—a writer can always get better. Writing is never perfect. I can always keep learning, keep evolving, and keep striving to make my words better. I realized I had within me the ability to develop a piece of writing from a tiny idea to print—an essential skill for a successful journalist.
Although some aspects of my writing process have evolved, others have remained static, and likely forever will. One being that at any given moment you will never find me without my notebooks. A good writer finds inspiration when she least expects it, and I have learned that frantically writing down ideas on the nearest napkin, receipt, or body part was not the most productive process.
So now, whatever I am doing, I am never without these two essential notebooks: one for my professional writing projects (school, my blogs, and my newspaper column) and the other for personal writing.
My professional notebook keeps me organized and serves as a solid first step on my various writing projects. My personal notebook, though, has been so much more than an organizational tool. It has allowed me to reach new levels of self expression and serves as the greatest stress reliever I have discovered–acting as a memoir these precious days in my young adult life.
So now that I have gone on about Ohio State’s journalism program and some of my personal writing routines, perhaps you would like to know why I want to be a journalist. I have explained well why I want to write but why not a novelist, or a poet? Why journalism? Well for me, the answer is simple.
When a writer puts pen to paper, she has one goal—tell a story. Fiction, non-fiction, opinion or objective, no matter its mode or purpose, that story must be unique and interesting. As a journalist, though, the story she writes must not only be unique and interesting, but most importantly, it must be true. The role of a journalist differs from that of any other writer because it relies on honesty.
A journalist provides a voice for those who are not or cannot be heard while upholding the highest level of integrity for each word she writes. Writer Tom Stoppard once said that “if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate weapon.” Authors have the luxury of creation, while journalists must sift through reality to uncover great stories.
The ability to discover those stories and bring light upon them with style and elegance defines a good journalist. In my eyes, young journalists carry the responsibility for speaking for their generation. There are real, honest and interesting people in the world with stories waiting to be told, and as a journalist, I believe it to be my sole purpose to find them.
Author Seth Godin said it well, “Turning your passion into your job is easier than finding a job that matches your passion.” You should not feel obligated to the career path you choose. For that is the beauty of being a young person in the world today—YOU hold the cards, YOU possess the freedom to do whatever it is that makes you excited to be alive. And with that sort of liberty, why would you ever want to do anything less than extraordinary? For me, that passion, that fire, that drive that gets me out of bed every day, is writing. I believe that no matter how many people are telling you “it’s impossible” or “you can’t”, if you attempt something with your whole heart, you will not fail.
Follow your passions, for life is too short to settle for ordinary.