Bingqing Mao

Why Journalism Students Should Double-Major

Photo courtesy of Digital Journalism Blog

Before I decided to purse journalism, my parents asked me what I could do in the future with such a degree. It is a tough question to answer. This question has been asked by many different people at different locations again and again, but I still haven’t found the answer yet.

What can I do in the future as a journalist? Or what can I do after my graduation with a journalism degree?
When I got my first internship in a local newspaper last summer in China, I found out that 80 percent of journalists who worked there were not journalism majors. The teacher I followed told me that even though she was journalism major, but it didn’t bring her many advantages in her field. The only difference between her and her colleagues was that she could write news stories faster and more proper than they could. After her colleagues got used to the writing style and atmosphere, they were almost same. Some of them even got competitive because they now had expertise in this particular field.

The senior editor in the newsroom was responsible for finance section of the newspaper. He majored in finance in college. His articles were concise, but easy to understand. Since his colleagues now work at banks, in the finance department of different companies and government, he can always find the sources he needs.

There was an international business forum held in that summer. One journalists majored in English, and as a result, she got the most crucial stories. Although other journalists also spoke English, her English was the sharpest. When there was an opportunity to interview foreign guest speakers with the governor of China, the newspaper chose her. Because they knew that I had studied abroad, I also got the opportunity to go to the forum as a translator. Due to my English education background, I got three stories published within a week, which encouraged me a lot.

These two things helped me make the decision to pursue a second major in marketing. Marketing has many dots that I could connect with journalism while studying it in school.

Nowadays, everyone can be a journalist and everyone can write news stories. At the same time, finding employment in journalism is difficult. We are told that with the more skills we have, the more likely we will get hired. I’ve been told this since the first day I entered the journalism school at Michigan State University. If journalism majors could earn another degree on top of their original degree, it would not only enhance their range of abilities but also give them a competitive edge.

It is also very common that amateur writers become even more popular than the professionals because they have a rather significant advantage: a deep expertise on the subjects they are reporting. The amateurs are interested in such a wide range of their field, therefore their stories sometimes are more attractive and amusing than the professionals.

When the journalism field is open to everyone, our level of education and experience also needs to be within a wide enough range to keep up with the competition.

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