Journalism is a major that relies heavily on real-world experience, rather than classroom performance, for success after graduation.
I realized this in second year. I started tweeting sports news and writing blog posts to get my reps up and improve my writing skills. Eventually, I found my calling as a freelancer. I started hosting video interviews for a YouTube sports channel and covering politics for a small news site.
I put “covered” in quotes because I didn’t really cover politics; I wrote stories based on existing information from mainstream media. I didn’t do any original reporting and I never spoke to a source.
This was the case during my first official internship, when I was writing for a site specializing in women’s sports. Again, I didn’t have to speak to sources and wrote stories using only existing coverage.
When I started working for The DePaulia in my freshman year, what was expected of me changed dramatically. For the first time in my life, I had to learn to be a real journalist. None of my previous experiences have held me to the same level of sourcing, verification, and accuracy as The DePaulia – and still does.
It was the first time I had actually learned how to contact sources for a story, the first time I had to deal with real deadlines, and the first time that one of my potential failures really had an impact on others. It’s the most realistic newsroom experience you can get as a student.
That’s why I was shocked when I learned that my ongoing experience with The DePaulia was not an acceptable “experiential learning experience” for CMN 394: Making the Most of Your Communications Internship .
What was deemed acceptable was my work with the YouTube channel. Don’t get me wrong, it was interesting and certainly helpful. But I had no deadlines, had very limited interaction with my team, and worked entirely on my own schedule. It was a great experience for a busy student, but not the most realistic when entering the workplace.
I was lucky to have this opportunity to fall back on. Several of my peers have struggled to find many opportunities to meet this requirement while balancing academic work with their dedication to student media. Many have forgone other internship opportunities to make a significant impact on DePaul student publications.
For me, that was just an inconvenience. It would have been much easier to use more structured traditional journalism work for my experiential learning credit. The course assignments and reflections were geared more towards this kind of experience. Considering The DePaulia was the most realistic reporting opportunity I’ve had to date, it doesn’t make sense to me why it should be overlooked as “experiential learning.”
So far, my time at The DePaulia has prepared me better for the workplace than my other opportunities. Many journalism internships and job postings cite student media involvement as a requirement. It is an important commitment, and an important one at that.
When it comes to journalism, student media is a real-world experience and should be treated as such.
I had a lot of experience in the real world. From military training to multiple customer service jobs, I have no shortage of knowledge that will help me in adult life.
I spent most of my college life collecting different real-world experiences from other students, and yet when it came time for my experiential learning credit, which is required to graduate at DePaul, I didn’t make it.
With the pandemic canceling my internship in 2020, ROTC occupying the majority of sophomore and freshman freshmen and working odd jobs throughout to survive, finding “experiential learning” wasn’t my first priority – until I found out I wasn’t going to graduate on time because of it.
As an Arts & Life editor at DePaulia for my senior year, I spend about 25-30 hours a week working to cultivate my seven-page section to perfection. From writing pitches, connecting with writers, editing articles, collecting images and art, and writing for the section myself, being an editor trains you to professional journalism.
Not to mention that my Fridays and Sundays of the week are spent at the office; that leaves little time for outside work outside of my service job to pay the rent, besides being a full-time student.
Student media is highly valued within the DePaul journalism community, and yet you never learn what’s needed in the real world without it – it’s shocking that it’s not considered for learning by experience.
Knowledge and practice of weekly and daily deadlines as well as working with peers, improving your writing portfolio should be more than considered for hands-on learning credit.
The prospect of expecting students to balance an internship on top of normal classroom work and student media completely neglects students who have to pay their own rent, especially since most internships are unpaid – it sets them up for failure.
Having to choose between student media and paid or unpaid internships or possible freelance work is a choice people make when charging their parents for rent, tuition and groceries.
If DePaul is to boast such a high number of internship opportunities, then they should accommodate the entire student population and not just business majors using the student center team as learning credit experiential. Even random classes that match the “writing domain” requirement are allowed to count for experiential learning. But the student media, where we meet weekly with our advisor to improve our newspaper, are not.
As an award-winning school newspaper, The DePaulia, along with other DePaul student media, should be considered a real-world experience. This way, they won’t have to pay more than $3,000 for a course during their unpaid internship to start their career.
Due to cost of living and time commitment, I have to do my experiential learning over the summer since The DePaulia doesn’t count. The burden of trying to balance a job and the DePaulia alongside school makes it harder to find an accessible unpaid internship.
Instead of graduating with my degree, I’ll end up paying for one last course to ensure I have the knowledge to be a “journalist” and earn a bachelor’s degree.