“Alison, journalism is a dying field.”

I stared at my sister blankly. After hearing something so many times, one begins to believe it. In a society where virtually anyone can Tweet, blog, or post current events on social media, many people have begun to view pursuing the profession of journalism as a waste. With college applications due in a few months, and big decisions in my near future, I knew I needed to see for myself if the repetitive statement that many people have ingrained in me is true—whether or not journalism is a dying field.

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Representatives from each state go on a behind the scenes tour of USA Today.

In February of my junior year I submitted an application to the Al Neuharth Scholarship Program in Washington, D.C. One student per state (and the District of Columbia) is selected to travel to D.C. and discover what it takes to be a professional journalist, as well as receive a $1000 scholarship to the college they chose to attend. Students are presented with once in a lifetime opportunities, including workshops by Pulitzer Prize winners and behind-the-scenes tours of the nation’s capital. I decided to apply—not thinking I had much of a chance at being selected.

Much to my surprise, at the end of March I embarked on a once in a lifetime journey. I received an email from the program’s coordinator saying I had been chosen to participate in the program. To say the least, I was shocked. Three months later I boarded a plane (the first time I had ever traveled alone) and was headed to the nation’s capital.

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Students spend the majority of their week in the Newseum learning about the various aspects of journalism as well as their First Amendment rights.

My week in Washington, D.C. was eye opening. Within 24 hours I had 50 new friends from all over the country. (How many people can say they have a friend in every state?) Along with my fellow “Free Spirits” I attended classes and learned from the best in the profession. We participated in all access tours of USA Today as well as sat in on a live taping of Meet The Press with David Gregory. I even had lunch with the former president of the Associated Press! Each day was packed with new experiences and information.

Additionally, my peers and I devoted much of our week to learning about our First Amendment rights. These rights are particularly important to journalists who spend their careers trying to keep the public well educated and informed. Honestly, before the conference began I could only name 2 of the 5 freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. I later learned how vital these freedoms are to our society. I was shocked to learn that some of my peers have their newspapers censored by administration and are unable to share select articles with their student body.

 

The moment my plane touched down back in Boston I knew that I want to pursue a career in journalism. I have a new appreciation for journalists and know I will have to put in grueling hours (and most likely make very little money) in order to be successful.

But, my question was answered—journalism may be evolving, but it is not going anywhere.

By Alison Murtagh