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All Places > The Communication COMMunity > Blog > Authors Meaghan Roche

In this day where issues like fake news, civility, and civic engagement are constant topics of discussion and debate, journalism’s role as the “fourth pillar of democracy” is growing in importance, with technology propelling the industry into the future of communication.

 

Communication studies remains one of the most popular college majors, with journalism falling under the same umbrella. Even for those not studying it, student journalism brings value to any educational institution because it instills values of discipline, dedication, critical thinking, and effort. Those who actively participate gain a transferable skill set that will lead them to success in any career path. And for students who choose simply to read the student newspaper, they become informed citizens on current events and the community around them.

 

Real Work Environment. The only scholastic club or organization that truly simulates a real work environment is a student newspaper. Student writers develop skills in analytical and critical thinking, leadership, teamwork, multitasking, and a sensitivity to deadlines -- the same attributes that are typically highly sought after by employers.

 

Participants practice managing their responsibilities, leading and working in a team, and even desensitizing themselves to and growing from criticism. Through their different roles in the student newspaper, students boost their résumés and portfolios through writing, photo, and video samples, as well as layout and design skills, editing techniques, public relations, and even social media strategies. Students can explore these different areas of journalism to find their niche and test out the field in a safe environment, all before they even graduate.

 

For those who work on the student paper but don’t ultimately pursue a career in journalism, these experiences are not lost in the future. In addition to the previously mentioned skills, the importance of clarity and economy of words will transfer into any field. Effective communication is invaluable in relationships as well as professional life.

 

Communication Etiquette. Student journalists learn the values of fact checking, correcting their errors, exercising transparency in their writing, questioning opposing viewpoints, and perhaps most importantly, carefully considering the impact of their words. These same principles translate into students’ lives in both the real and virtual world, providing a guideline for ethical communication online and in person. Students are forced to take ownership of their words, actions, and decisions no matter the outcome.

 

Learn from Successes and Failures. Faculty advisors tend to take on a laissez faire approach, giving student journalists the liberty to make their own decisions. Students are treated as professionals as they are held accountable for any errors in judgment, reporting, or criticism and are forced to regularly make decisions regarding ethics, privacy, and the truth. It hurts to get a disappointing grade on an assignment, but it’s far more embarrassing to experience negative public feedback on a misprint, glaring typo, or accidental empty space.


Synthesis of Classroom Learning. Student newspapers provide a practical synthesis between classroom learning and real world experience. In conjunction with their classes, students have the opportunity to apply what they’re learning in the moment.

                        

 

Free Speech. Independent reporting arms citizens with information, investigation, analysis, and community knowledge on the local, national, and international level. Although vital to good journalism, independent reporting is endangered today due to the prevalence of aggregates and online news, coupled with the decline of robust print reporting. This watchdog principle that is integral to democracy can be reinforced in student journalism by teaching students the need to inform the public through reporting that is objective, truthful, contextual, and readable.

 

Building Professional Relationships. Student journalists are forced out of their comfort zones and into the real world to report stories. They learn to effectively interview sources, report clearly and accurately, and remain professional throughout the process. In addition to the confidence that journalism builds, students can also develop a network from the sources they meet, peers they work with, and faculty members who guide them.

 

Students overwhelmingly describe the experiences they gained from working on their schools’ newspapers as positive. While student journalism requires dedication, it is extremely rewarding -- often in the form of a job after college. It can also be fun for students to befriend like-minded people, and empowering to get their work published and see the influence they have on their universities.

Students make the most of their college experiences when they step out of their comfort zones -- which can sometimes mean physically stepping out of the classroom, or even the country. During this past fall semester, I studied abroad in Galway, Ireland (cue Ed Sheeran’s Galway Girl) where the entire continent of Europe served as my classroom at large.

 

That semester I sat through the fewest classes of my college career, yet I would argue that I learned the most during that time.

 

Galway, the future host of the European Capital of Culture for 2020, served as my home base for my travels, my host university, and my new developing friendships. Living with both native Irish and American students, we had plenty to learn about each other’s cultures despite the lack of a language barrier. From slang words to accents to cultural norms and even social media practices – for example, Facebook is still huge for millennials while Twitter has yet to really take off in Ireland – it was almost seamless to pick up on these differences and integrate them into daily life. I learned to love cheesy Irish reality TV, appreciate the bounty of Irish dairy products, and live like a native to the extent that tourists frequently asked me for directions. My Irish friends laughed at the fact that I describe myself as “Irish” (as in Irish-American) back home, and I astonished them with the fact that the state of New York is bigger than their entire country.

The Cliffs of Moher located in County Clare, Ireland.Each year, the beautiful Cliffs of Moher located in County Clare, Ireland attract millions of visitors. 

 

Although I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, the education system was drastically different at my Irish university than back in the States. Where American students are accustomed to continuous learning through daily classes with required attendance, discussion based seminars, homework assignments, essays, presentations, and group projects, European instructors commonly expect students to engage in the majority of their studies on their own time. Without the pressure and reinforcement of continuous learning, students must hold themselves responsible to complete readings and in depth studies outside of class time. As a result, I gained a new-found appreciation for the American education system that I once took for granted, as I learned that I’m personally better suited to a more rigorous class setting.

 

The availability of class notes and lecture slides online (thank you BlackBoard!) and the lack of attendance policies made for the ideal opportunity for international students to travel while still (more or less) keeping up with their courses. During my semester abroad, I was fortunate enough to travel to eight other countries. And, as cliché as it sounds, that was when I learned the most.

 

Overlooking Dyrhólaey arch in south Iceland where I road-tripped to Reynisfjara black sand beach and Seljalandsfoss waterfall.

 

Living, traveling, and exploring independently is one of the best ways to gain self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment. After successfully driving a tiny rental car on frozen back roads through Iceland, I truly felt like I could do anything. As your confidence and comfort zone stretch, you learn more about yourself, as well as the other people and cultures you had set out to explore. A once reserved young girl returned a semester later as sociable as the friendly natives of the Emerald Isle, perhaps earned from the gift of the gab at the Blarney Stone. She acquired tastes for new foods, fashion trends, and a knack for looking like a local in a new city.

 

Kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle in Cork, Ireland is said to give the kisser "the gift of the gab" -- or the ability to speak with eloquence and fluency. The kisser must climb to the top of the castle where they will lean back over the edge, hold onto the rails, and kiss the Stone. 

 

No matter how different the landscape, language, or culture, people are people and they can find a way around any barrier. Standing at the edge of the Cliffs of Moher, skiing in the shadow of the Matterhorn, marching through the peaceful demonstrations in Barcelona/Catalonia, and gaping in awe at the aurora borealis showed me how small the world can be, yet how small I am in this big beautiful world. These experiences help you to better know yourself and the world around you, allowing you to communicate more easily across cultures and in any new situations life has in store for you.

 

Despite longing for my bed, my dog, my family, and my friends back in New York, I knew that studying abroad was the best decision I had ever made for myself. Although I missed Galway as soon as I landed in JFK, I’m lucky that I have a home to return to across the Atlantic, and international friends that I could someday tour around my own country. I highly recommend that everyone given the opportunity to study abroad -- whether for a semester, a summer, a year, or just a few weeks -- live it to the absolute fullest.