Allia Mcdowell

The Line Between Media and Business is Blurry

Photo credit: adrian (@aows) via Unsplash

Everyone thinks journalists are scared of numbers, and business people can’t communicate to save their lives. To an extent, these stereotypes aren’t completely groundless. But the line between the two worlds, that everyone thinks is carved in stone, is really only drawn in the sand. In coming to Michigan State University, I was completely undecided about what I wanted to study and where I pictured my life going. Having been the editor of my high school’s newspaper, I knew that journalism was a passion of mine.

Could I make it a career? I wasn’t sure, but I entered the School of Journalism and added the major anyway. Per the encouragement of my parents and former teachers, I decided to pursue a second major in the Eli Broad College of Business in Marketing. Partially to give me a buffer because business, it seems, is a more stable career choice than journalism; and, partially because I wanted the analytical and technical challenge on top of mastering my writing skills.

Up to this point, the two worlds have hardly crossed over for me. The skills I have gained in the business school are on the literal opposite side of the spectrum from what I have done in the school of journalism. I get the best of both worlds. While many journalists are intimidated by numbers, I have the confidence to solve some of the most advanced statistics and finance problems. While many business people are unable to communicate effectively, whether in writing or in person, I have the skills to collect, evaluate, and translate all types of information for the broadest audiences. The gap between the two worlds seems massive. And, since day one of my college career, I have been searching for a way to bridge the two.

This is why hearing from Julianne Pepitone and John Hill really changed my perspective entirely.

Pepitone is a freelance writer who left her steady position with NBC News to become her own boss.  She had worked with CNN Money for a while, after graduating from Syracuse, and now writes for every publication from Cosmopolitan to IEEE Spectrum. Pepitone talked passionately about her work as a freelance journalist, and the importance of the connections she made throughout her career. She spoke honestly about the “money” in media, and what it was like to have to market herself – because, in all actuality, she became her own business.

Freelance journalism is not something I have ever really considered. I realize now that freelance journalism is one of the biggest direct crossovers between business and journalism. This definitely inspired me to consider options outside of strictly working in a newsroom. Pepitone may not have expected this to be her career path, but sometimes life really does lead you down paths you could have never imagined.

This was especially true for John Hill. Hill graduated from MSU with a degree in journalism, but his career didn’t quite seem to fit with that. Hill has a talent for connecting with people, and realized quickly how important networking really is. After working briefly for The Lansing State Journal, Hill found himself back at MSU, eventually working as the Director of Alumni Career Services. He then found his way to working at LinkedIn, and is now the VP of Network at a company called Techstars. Techstars is a major investment program and incubator for entrepreneurs and startups.

Hill never expected to end up in the business world. His journey, he said, was one that he never would have guessed when he was sitting in his JRN 300 class at MSU. However, he seized every opportunity that presented itself. By choosing to learn new things, rather than be intimidated by uncharted territory, Hill excelled and found himself in a career that he loves.

Hearing Hill’s passion for his job, and the many twists and turns he experienced on his way there, was reassuring. Even though I have my two majors finally decided, I still have no idea what I really want my future to look like. I thought I had two choices: become a businesswoman with a talent for communicating, or a journalist with in-depth knowledge of the business world. I realize now that there are a lot more than just two choices.

It is intimidating to be a junior in college knowing that, in one year, I will walk across the stage (or in my case, two stages) and get my diploma. And then I will be on my own. I can’t imagine that I will be truly ready for that moment; but I doubt anyone really is. College is its own kind of incubator. For four years you get to explore who you have been, who you are, and who you hope to be. For four years, you can make mistakes and learn from them. And for four years, you can feel safe and protected from the world within your controlled, nurturing environment.

Once graduation hits, that’s all gone. The real world is a much less forgiving place. I have realized, however, that there are people in the world looking to help walk me into my future, whatever it might be. Those people are Spartans. If there is anything I really took away from Hill and Pepitone’s presentations, it was that the power of your network is endless. You never know who might be able to get you your next job, or connect you to your future boss. They both stressed the importance of being NICE to everyone. A smile can go a long way, and making a positive impression on every person you encounter is necessary for success.

Photo credit: Nadine Shaabana (@nadineshaabana) via Unsplash

I feel much more confident in my opportunities now that I can see the real crossover between the business and journalism worlds. I understand how having a foot on both sides of that line can be a real asset to me as I go forward. And I realized, too, how blurry that line really is. There is no true divide between the two, and I now know that I can be essential as a liaison between one group and the other. No matter where I end up, I am grateful for my experiences, and comforted by the fact that there are a hell of a lot more than two options for me after graduation.

One thought on “The Line Between Media and Business is Blurry

  1. Allia, I am really happy you feel like you found a use for the skills learned from both your majors, and you’re entirely right. If freelancing is something you want to do, I think you’ll definitely have the know-how to take care of the business and finance side — and that can be an important distinction between you and others!


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