Journalism is a major that heavily relies on real-world experience, rather than classroom performance, to find success after graduation.
I realized this as early as sophomore year. I started tweeting sports news and writing blog posts to get my reps and improve my writing skills. Eventually, I found my way into freelancing. I started hosting video interviews for a YouTube sports channel and “covered” politics for a small news site.
I put “covered” in quotes because I didn’t actually cover politics; I wrote news stories based on existing information from larger outlets. I did no original reporting, and never talked to a source.
This held true for my first official internship, when I wrote for a website specializing in women’s sports. Again, I didn’t have to talk to sources, and wrote stories using existing coverage only.
When I started working for The DePaulia my junior year, what was expected of me drastically changed. For the first time in my life, I had to learn how to be a real journalist. None of my prior experiences held me to the same standard of sourcing, vetting and accuracy as The DePaulia did — and still does.
It was the first time that I actually learned how to contact sources for a story, the first time I had to deal with real deadlines and the first time that any of my potential failures truly impacted others. It’s the most realistic newsroom experience you can get as a student.
That’s why I was shocked when I learned that my ongoing experience with The DePaulia was not an acceptable “experiential learning experience” for CMN 394: Making the Most of Your Communication Internship.
What was deemed acceptable was my work with the YouTube channel. Don’t get me wrong, it was interesting and certainly useful. But I didn’t have any deadlines, had very limited interaction with my team and worked completely on my own schedule. It was a great experience for a busy college student, but not the most realistic one when entering the workplace.
I was lucky that I had this opportunity to fall back on. Several of my peers have struggled to find ample opportunities to fulfill this requirement while balancing schoolwork and their devotion to student media outlets. Many have forgone other internship possibilities to make meaningful impacts in DePaul student publications.
For me, it was merely an inconvenience. It would have been far easier to use a more structured, traditional journalism job for my experiential learning credit. The course’s assignments and reflections were more geared towards this kind of experience. Considering The DePaulia has been the most realistic reporting opportunity I’ve had to date, it doesn’t make sense to me why this should be overlooked as “experiential learning.”
Thus far, my time at The DePaulia has prepared me better for the workplace than my other opportunities. Many journalism internships and job listings cite student media participation as a requirement. It’s a significant commitment, and an important one at that.
As far as journalism is concerned, student media is real-world experience, and it should be treated as such.
I have had a lot of real-world experience. From military training to multiple customer service jobs, I am not short on knowledge that will aid me in adult life.
I have spent the majority of my college life collecting different real-world experiences from other students, and yet when the time came for my experiential learning credit, which is required to graduate at DePaul, I fell short.
With the pandemic canceling my internship in 2020, ROTC occupying the majority of freshman sophomore and junior year and working odd-end jobs throughout to survive, finding ‘experiential learning’ was not my first priority — until I found out I wasn’t going to graduate on time because of it.
As the Arts & Life editor at DePaulia for my senior year, I spend roughly 25-30 hours a week working to cultivate my seven-page section to perfection. From writing pitches, connecting with writers, editing articles, collecting images and art and writing for the section myself, being an editor trains you for a professional journalism job.
Not to mention my Fridays and Sundays each week are spent in the office; it leaves little time for outside work besides my service job to pay rent, as well as being a full-time student.
Student media is valued strongly within the DePaul journalism community, and yet you never learn what is needed in the real world without it- it’s shocking it’s not considered for experiential learning.
The knowledge and practice of weekly and daily deadlines along with working with peers, buffing up your writing portfolio should be more than considered for a credit based on hands-on learning.
The perspective of expecting students to balance an internship on top of normal class work and student media completely neglects the students who have to pay for their own rent, especially since most internships are unpaid — it’s setting them up for failure.
Having to choose between student media and getting paid versus unpaid internships or possible freelancing is a choice people who have their parents pay for their rent, tuition and groceries can make.
If DePaul is to boast such a high number of internship opportunities, then they should accommodate for the entire population of students and not just business majors using student center crew as their experiential learning credit. Even random classes that fit the requirement of “writing domain” are allowed to count for experiential learning. But student media, where we meet up with our advisor to improve our newspaper each week, is not.
As an award winning school newspaper, The DePaulia, as well as the other DePaul student media, should be credited as real-world experience. This way, they won’t have to pay over $3,000 for a class while working at their unpaid internship to start their careers.
Because of the cost of living and time commitment, I have to take my experiential learning over the summer since The DePaulia doesn’t count. The burden of trying to balance a job and The DePaulia alongside school makes it harder to find an unpaid internship accessible.
Instead of finishing school with my graduation, I will be finishing with paying for one last class to make sure I have the knowledge to be a ‘journalist’ and deserving of a bachelor’s degree.