Here’s to student journalists

By Brianna Wellen

My days at Columbia are numbered, and in turn, my status as a college student. Maybe even more significant, my career as a student journalist will soon be over. In some ways, being a student in this situation means residing in an even more tumultuous environment than the professional world that awaits me.

When I first came to Columbia, I was a timid, unassuming student, and my first writing and reporting class terrified me. I had to go out and talk to strangers? No, thank you. Many students, in fact, found themselves in this situation, shyly approaching people on the street asking for their thoughts on one Chicago-related issue or another, often being brushed off if not for their meekness, then because they were students. And so assertiveness is built.

Students have to try twice as hard and be twice as good as other reporters to be taken seriously, especially in such a competitive news environment as Chicago. In their classes alone, the journalism students at Columbia cover breaking college news, international topics and hard-hitting investigative stories, some with more vigor and professionalism than working journalists in the city.

Writing, reporting and editing for a student publication proves to be even more difficult at times. The paper must reach multiple audiences—faculty, staff and students of Columbia, along with the general population of Chicago within our distribution range—without feeling like it’s catering to a single group. This becomes extremely difficult when dealing with higher-ups who know the facts but refuse to say anything and peers who know very little but refuse to stop talking. It is here in the student newsroom that quick decision-making skills are acquired, mistakes are sometimes made and confidence is built. It is among the hardest jobs some of us will ever have.

Columbia boasts of providing real world experience and working professionals to motivate students and prepare them for the real world. While I can’t necessarily speak to every department and its successes in keeping this promise, the Journalism Department and The Chronicle have certainly fulfilled this for me. And looking around at my peers, it seems to be working pretty well for them as well.

Through the struggles we’ve been through in classes and at the paper, we’ve had far more triumphs. I’ve met war reporters, columnists and Pulitzer Prize winners, and I can say the student journalists I’ve had the pleasure of working with at The Chronicle are some of the best writers and reporters I could ever hope to meet.