By Natalie Butz
The College is considering adding a Media Studies Minor and maybe even a Communications Major in the near future, and I for one say hallelujah. It’s hard to appreciate the amount of work that goes into every Elm, “Collegian”, “Colophon” and “Codex” you see on campus. I didn’t understand myself until I had been to a layout night and saw how much time was spent organizing every little detail I’d taken for granted every Friday when I picked up a paper.
It’s even more amazing when you consider that every staff member on these publications is completely self-taught. We get no class in InDesign or journalism ethics or how to write an article. We’re given an assignment and we’re told to go.
During my four years on The Elm, it’s always been a source of pride for me what our staff can create every week. As I said before, we have no formal training and our writers, editors, photographers, and multimedia editors are able to produce a pretty good product, starting with conception and ending with printed words and images on a page. However, I can also see the drawbacks from such lack of training.
I can’t speak from the perspective of the “Collegian” or the “Codex” or the “Colophon”, but for us, there are definitely times when a background in actual journalism or communications classes would have been beneficial. The time it takes to train new editors or the discrepancies in our experiences are usually minor points. You could even argue they bring us closer as a staff because they force us to work together and ask each other’s advice.
The times a lack of training becomes a real issue though, is when we face tough ethical decisions. Or when we try to make journalism our career. There are several members of the Elm staff, myself included, who are interested in becoming career journalists. However, many internship programs, such as NPR, which I recently applied to, would not consider us competitive applicants because we barely have any journalism coursework. It’s stupid, especially when you consider that comparable schools, such as Washington & Lee and Muhlenberg, have Journalism or Communications Majors, and their publications aren’t half as strong as ours.
But the even larger and more immediate concern is, a newspaper is a powerful tool, even one with as small a circulation as The Elm, and we are allowed to run it with virtually no formal training. But The Elm is not a stagnant thing. Last year, we went online. This year, we have been able to start attaching video broadcasts to some of our online stories and this week, WCTR broadcasted The Elm’s first “Stop the Presses!” segment to 40,000 listeners across the Delmarva Peninsula. We used to struggle to fill editor positions. Last semester, we received nearly 30 applicants for two slots.
The Elm is only going to continue to grow. It would be nice if we had formal, credit-bearing classes to facilitate that growth. But the prospect of adding these programs affects more than just the 18 members of The Elm staff. There are more and more students now interested in Media Studies and Communications. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Media Studies as one of the “9 Hot College Majors” in growth fields. Collegestats.com ranked Communications and Journalism as #3 on its 25 Most Popular Majors in 2011 list. The demand is there and in order for WC to be competitive, we need to be able to offer these programs.