Meet Yuliya Barsukova. She is a 17-year-old Russian high school student applying to college with a dream to be a journalist. She even has some professional experience working for the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper. But right now she is trying to decide what would be the best major to prepare her for a career in journalism. She is one many that is still choosing the career despite cutbacks at many news organizations and among the record number of people applying to journalism school.
I have had a few other youngsters (I know, I myself am young too) asking me what I would recommend for a major in college to prepare them for a career in journalism. I majored in journalism. But I think that if I were to go back I would have likely picked something more on the technology side of things like computer science.
This isn’t to debate the relevance or quality of journalism schools today because I think learning the fundamentals of journalism are invaluable and can be applied to careers outside of journalism as well. But journalists are having to be more entrepreneurial and tech-savvy in today’s online journalism environment and the profession requires a new set of skills. I think at the undergraduate level students should focus on the follow:
- Learning Journalism Fundamentals: This includes reporting factually and accurately, ethics, writing, etc.
- Become an Expert in an Area: Study a specific subject that you would want to specialize in and report on.
- Learn a Foreign Language: This makes you more valuable as a reporter. Also, it is obviously very valuable as a foreign correspondent or a U.S. journalist in a diverse city.
- Gain Tech Skills: Learn how to produce multimedia content, Web development skills, etc.
With anything, the argument could be made that a student could learn coding skills on their own or learn journalism from experience in a newsroom. But ultimately, I want to get your views on what you think would be the most valuable major for a young journalist to pursue. Vote below or add your thoughts in the comments. I will share them with the likes of Yuliya and others that have inquired. Oh, and for those interested in journalism school here is a great Twitter list by Mediabistro of J-Schools on Twitter.