Why Research and Writing Should be a Journalism Student’s Favorite Courses
The field of journalism is an exciting one, to say the least. Students may have a good idea of what area they want to serve in upon completing their degree, or perhaps the student will explore various career opportunities. No matter what area, understanding the importance of research and writing is paramount to success.
For many, the very idea of having to take a research course for any subject can be stressful. Maybe that is because when we think of research, we immediately think of numbers, statistics, charts, and graphs. While these are certainly elements of research, there is a much bigger picture, especially for the journalist.
Serving the public interest by delivering timely and accurate information means that you should not only be able to gather information, but that you should also be skilled in helping the audience to interpret the information that is presented to them. This task requires that you have the ability to not only explain the statistics and visual representations, but if you intend on becoming a skilled journalist, you should also understand how those numbers and charts were derived. This intersection is where solid research skills come in handy.
In his textbook News Reporting and Writing, Melvin Mencher devotes an entire section to “Reporting Principles,” in which he discusses how to find the stories and make observations, using sources, speeches, and other elements. He posits that no matter how well you write, research and reporting are key elements to becoming a good journalist. Mencher is Professor Emeritus at Colombia University School of Journalism and has taught and mentored some of the top journalists in the country.
It may seem that a discussion of the importance of writing would not be necessary; after all, a student in journalism and mass communication probably likes to write. The concern in the mass-mediated world that we live in is not about the desire or the ability to write, it is more about the ability to write effectively in the various forms of media that are available to us.
News reporting has grown into a business that is not the same as it was decades ago when there were very few media outlets that “owned themselves,” so to speak.
Then, it was easier to write to an audience because it was a large audience that came to the same places to get their news and information. Today it is a bit more challenging because of the fragmentation of audiences and the new ways in which those in the industry must communicate to and with them. These are no longer the days of one-way communication. Journalists increasingly have to engage their audiences and learn to write in different forms of media.
So when you log in to your Methods of Research or News Writing & Reporting course, enter with a sense of knowing that this class will lay the foundation for everything in journalism.
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Written by Teresa Taylor Moore, PhD
Teresa is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Journalism and Mass Communication degree program at Ashford University.