Why I Am Majoring in Journalism Despite Everyone Telling Me Not to


For my 200th piece published on the internet, I decided what better thing to write about than ... writing! With more than 150 majors to choose from at my Midwestern state university, one is probably wondering, "why journalism?"

Going into school, I thought I wanted to be a business major, finance to be exact. I was good at economics, and thought that this would be a great way to set up a future career.  After two weeks on campus and three "pre-business" meetings, I decided that undergraduate business school was not for me.

On the first day of Journalism 201, we were assigned a reading by George Orwell entitled "Why I Write."  In this, the essay opens with a rather innocuous line to most; however it struck a chord with what I had been feeling.  He says, "From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature ..."

Writing had always been a hobby of mine, but I was never the best writer.  I never got an A in an English class, I always wrote horribly constructed run-on sentences in every paragraph, and long held a staunch opposition to reading literature. So what drew me to writing and why would I want to be a journalist? It's easy, I am choosing to do what I love.

To become a fan of artsy movies, you need to want to become a fan of artsy movies.  To like Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, you need to want to like his interesting collection of industrial sounds. For me, to like writing, I needed to fully immerse myself in writing.  What started as a way of getting into concerts for free turned in to an obsession.  Week after week, I would find a new outlet that would take a 17-year-old writer who would write about sports, music, movies, news, politics. Whatever it was, I wanted to write about it.

Though every ad I responded to said "we can't pay you; however, we can give you invaluable experience to kick-starting your journalism career" in some manner shape or form, that wasn't why I was doing it. Was it some sort of ego-trip of mine that I just wanted to see my name printed or online that total strangers would read?  It could be. Could it be that I just want to share my opinions on things, be it as banal as places to get a breakfast sandwich in New York or whether James Holmes deserves the death penalty? Sure, it could be that too.

When I first started writing for PolicyMic in March of last year, I entered their writer boot-camp not because I thought this would lead to a column in the New York Times, not because this would lead to international fame and fortune, but because I genuinely wanted to become a better writer. Almost a year and a half later, I have no New York Times column, but that's ok.

So despite these guys, them, them again, and even these other guys telling me that this is the worst major to pursue, as a naïve 19-year-old, I feel some sort of collegiate-aged burden to pursue what I really love. And if three more years pass and the real-world comes knocking, I could find myself working in PR or advertising. But until then, my dreams of having a column in the Times or in The New Yorker are still firmly intact.