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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Echo
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5 Things Journalism Can Offer

The benefits of learning new skills

So, you want to be a novelist — or perhaps you’re hoping to be the next great manuscript editor or literary agent. Why should you take a journalism course?

Put simply, it’s to grow your skillset as a writer, to make you well-rounded and (let’s be honest) possibly earn you a buck or two. Regardless of your desired profession, journalism offers far more than you might expect. So, read on, my dear literary friend!

Below are five things you can learn from the field of journalism.

1. How to kill your darlings

Yes, we’ve likely all heard this little editing phrase, but journalism teaches you to “kill” your favorite phrases and well-crafted metaphors in new ways. With limited page space, tight word counts and no (you heard me, no) Oxford commas, you’ll be stretched to write well without the use of literary embellishments.

2. Learn to write faster (and get published!)

For those who dread National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), practicing journalism can be a great way not only to force yourself to write on a deadline, but also to practice putting your words into the hands of another. Force yourself out of perfectionistic habits, learn to edit and then let go of your piece. Submit monthly columns to a local newspaper, get involved in a weekly student publication or start a quarterly newsletter detailing newsworthy updates. (Bonus: you’re building your portfolio in the process!)

Whatever you choose, time how long it takes you to get to 600 words. If it’s over an hour, find ways to cut back. You’ll be glad you did when you tackle those bigger writing projects.

3. Find what’s important

Proximity, prominence, timeliness, relevance and novelty — these are the five pillars that reporters live and die by. Regardless of what type of writing you might pursue as a career, these five principles will teach you to write better queries, pitches and even books. What’s the market like? Will that historical romance you’ve been writing feel fresh and prominent to the market two years from now? Teach yourself to analyze writing more efficiently by practicing a few journalistic standards.

4. Expand your research skills

Journalists can’t work solely from home, and neither should you. Going into the world beyond your local Starbucks can provide scores of writing ideas, but it can also change the way you research.

Perhaps you don’t have the budget to travel to New Zealand and write the next “Lord of the Rings,” but what are your own neighborhood stories that you’ve blindly gone into? Who are the business owners around you, and what are their stories? Many times, business owners and residents can provide more information than anything you’ve found online. Many are even willing to speak with you if you gather up the courage to ask. Like all good research, though, just be sure to fact-check everything you can.

5. You might actually like it

Ah, the point I would never have believed during my freshman year of college. I was a writer, not a reporter. I dreaded the mandatory journalism course on my major checklist.

But journalism was listed for a reason.

Not only did it challenge me in new ways, but I learned how much I enjoyed sharing other people’s stories — because at its heart, that’s all journalism is. You can still capture drama, intrigue, love and loss, but the stories you’re telling are real. I’ve heard from politicians, mothers of miscarriages, widows, second-generation immigrants, farmers and more, and my world is richer for it.

After all, stories are everywhere. While we as high literary folk may believe we’re catching all the ideas we could dream of, there’s a bigger picture right outside your window.

So, take a chance. Take a detour. Journey into the land of journalism, and perhaps — like me — you too will find a new form of writing you absolutely adore.