Edit desk: Why journalism?


Alexis McGowan

Whether it be a formal interview or just in a casual conversation, when I say I am studying journalism, the question “Why journalism?” almost always comes up.

I feel the need to defend my major and explain that “journalism” is an outdated term for what I have immersed myself in for the past four years.

Of course, I have taken writing and media ethics courses, which are required for the major; however, the majority of the courses offered by the journalism and communications department at Lehigh go far beyond simply writing for a newspaper.

Journalism is constantly evolving.

In our fast-paced society, there is an expectation that news and information must be delivered instantaneously. However, news does not have to be an article in a newspaper. News can be a Tweet, a photo, a video or any other way that provides the public with information and updates.

As a journalism major, I have taken courses on visual communication and learned to tell the same story in different ways for various platforms. I have been able to fly drones for video footage. I have studied how to use social media for professional purposes and how to reach the largest possible audience. I have even learned basic coding skills and built my own website to showcase my work.

I have been exposed to skills that are practical in almost every industry, even though these skills are hiding behind the word “journalism,” which employers — at first glance — assume equates only to writing.

Lehigh’s journalism and communications department understands the need for journalism majors to be well-versed in all things related to digital media. However, outsiders do not always understand how journalism has evolved.

In a world where smartphones and tablets allow people to access information 24/7, there is less of a need for printed media, but there is a higher demand for quality online and digital media.

For example, The Brown and White scaled back our 12-page paper to eight pages last year because we discovered readers were using our site more than they were looking at physical copies of the paper. We produce the same amount of content, but we just put less of it in print. We also utilize social media more and produce various multimedia stories.

We are essentially responding to today’s demands for accessing news like the media industry as a whole.

When I applied to Lehigh I was interested in the five-year education program. I wanted to study psychology and get my master’s degree to become a teacher. Soon after the start of my freshman year, I realized I was no longer interested in this plan.

When it came time to outline my class schedule for my sophomore fall semester, I began to reflect on the classes I had taken thus far at Lehigh and which ones I had found most interesting. I remembered that I had taken media and society, an introductory communications course, and after just two weeks, I was fascinated by all things media.

I started mapping out my courses for sophomore year and gravitated toward journalism and communications courses and quickly realized this is what I wanted to study. After all, this area of concentration was a perfect complement to my passion for photography and my food Instagram @g00deats, which provides information to my followers.

I was apprehensive about journalism at first because, like others, I assumed it was simply focused on writing, but as I began to familiarize myself with the course catalog, I soon realized all of the important skills a journalism major would provide.

As I prepare to graduate from Lehigh and start my career in the NBCU Page Program, I am confident the skills I have gained as a journalism major have given me the foundation I need to succeed.

Alexis McGowan, ’19, is a managing editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected].

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