Thursday, August 28, 2008

Keeping the faith


If there is one challenge facing young journalists in today's topsy-turvy world, it is holding onto the idea that there is no other field they would rather be a part of.

Back in the old-school glamour days, reporters were sent on assignments all over the world. To the Galapagos Islands, to write an article about the mini-penguins swimming in warm waters. To the African jungle, to capture a single shot of a rare tree frog. To the Middle East, to cover Henry Kissinger's latest expedition - all on a first class ticket, no less!

Nowadays, students graduating with a journalism degree are lucky if they can find a job that pays $12,000 a year.

The economic freefall our generation faces is more than daunting - it is terrifying. Selling out to a cushy PR job or even law school seems more and more appealing in the wake of constant firings at the nation's top news publications.

What's more, we as students of journalism have no idea where the field is headed. Will we be writing articles for Page One, or will our children have never touched a newspaper in their lifetimes?

On my first day of class at the Annenberg School of Communication, the school's dean explicitly said to us, "After this class, some students may want to get out of this profession for economic reasons alone. We don't know where this industry is headed, but instead of seeing this as scary, you should see it as an opportunity to shape journalism for future generations."

And I do.

Journalism is a field steeped in the tradition of bringing the truth to the people. Nowadays, keeping the truth afloat amidst the sea of bloggers' murky opinions is already proving difficult for established journalists. However, despite this setback and the obvious economic cop-outs, holding onto the idea that journalism is worth fighting for is the greatest challenge young journalists have to confront.

They can, and they will.

Blessing Waung is a junior studying print journalism and East Asian languages and cultures at the University of Southern California. She loves reading the NYT's top 10 most-emailed list, watching basketball games and exploring Los Angeles with her friends.

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