When I tell people that I am a journalism major, I get a lot of different reactions – few of which, if any, are positive. Sometimes it’s, “Oh, interesting, what do you want to do with that?” or “Journalism, hmm … isn’t that kind of a dying field?” I’ve had people sarcastically wish me luck in ever finding a job.
(In photo: A visit to the Library of Congress.)
I have also had people tell me that journalism is just gossip or that the press can’t be trusted. Whatever negative thing has been said about the profession of journalism, rest assured I have heard it.
I chose to go into journalism because I am a storyteller. I have always wanted to be the person who tells everyone else what is going on, what happened, or what is going to happen. However, it is difficult to pursue a career that is not as respected as it should be.
I chose to participate in SMU’s Hilltop on the Hill program because I wanted to network. I wanted to go to CNN. I wanted to see D.C. None of those reasons ended up giving me the indelible experience that I have chosen to write about.
On the second day of the trip, we were scheduled to visit the Newseum, a museum of news history and journalism history. I was excited about seeing a museum filled with famous artifacts of my future profession, but I had little anticipation for anything more than seeing some cool old newspapers. I ended up getting an unexpected dose of something I didn’t know I desperately needed – pride.
Pride for my major, pride for my profession, pride for the thing that I have been laughed at and scorned for pursuing. The Newseum is a six-floor monument to the news; it is a testament to the people who throughout time have put aside everything to tell the world what is happening.
One of the first things I saw when I went through the Newseum was very personal, and initiated my journey through the museum. There was a room filled with newspaper front pages for nearly every year since the start of America to present day. Each year had three different front pages encased in glass. I was reading a few of them when I saw that one of them was from Texas, my home state.
It was the cover of the Telegraph and Texas Register from 1836, the year that Texas declared its independence and established itself as a republic. I am a 7th-generation Texan and a direct descendant of someone who fought at the Alamo, so when I saw this I started beaming. I realized that the history of where I am from, the history of who I am, was once news.
I would never have had the opportunity to learn about history if someone had not reported it during his or her time. I started to feel kinship with every journalist who had ever lived. I walked through the whole exhibit, reading paper headlines from World War II, prohibition, and hundreds of other major historical events.
These journalists did what they thought was right; they gathered information and reported to the people, even if it made them unpopular or put their lives in jeopardy.
I saw how journalists covered Katrina, 9/11 and the War in Afghanistan. I saw how journalists were responsible for keeping politicians honest; I read how reporters kept the public informed on matters of government they deserved to know about.
In the Newseum, there was a wall listing the names of journalists who had died covering stories. I was astounded. The list looked like a war memorial, and I instantly grieved for the fallen.
I walked the Newseum for nearly 2 hours. I took over 300 pictures while I was there. A simple visit to a museum ended up being the highlight of Hilltop on the Hill for me. In the future, if someone asks me what I’m going to do with my journalism degree, I’ll tell them I am going to write the first draft of history.
Twenty-one Journalism and CCPA students spent five days in Washington, D.C., during fall 2010 for Hilltop on the Hill. Read their blog.