Since 2010, one year after I came to America from China, my dream has been to become an international journalist. Recently I developed the focus of broadcasting within journalism.
People get information of the rest of the world from news and other media platforms, and news content form our view of the world. It’s been almost five years since I first came to America. I still see much misunderstanding among different cultures, especially between China and America. A lot of the stereotypes come from the media, so I developed this real big idea of bridging the two cultures together using a pen and my open mind.
Many people have told me this is a great thing to do, but many including my parents have warned me its difficulty. Getting in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UW-Madison (the J-school) is just the first step. There is still much I need to accomplish before I see myself standing in front of a camera and telling a story to the rest of the world.
Before I graduate from the J-school, I hope I can master these marketable skills that will help me forge my career path:
Strong writing and editing skill — There has been much talk about the “dying” print journalism industry (or its reinvention) that nobody reads newspaper any more and the “anyone can be a journalist” ideology because anyone can write news on personal blog or even Twitter. However, I think it’s necessary and relevant for students to get trained to do journalism, for example, to know what objectivity and “inverted pyramid” really mean. The audience deserve to know accurate and unbiased information. Besides, systematic training of writing and editing will come in handy when organizing a story for TV, radio or web — what the most important factor that should be in the lead, etc. I think reading articles from various prominent media sources, such as the New York Times and BBC, and questioning why they wrote the way they did will help me attain the skill.
Digital photography and video skill — A picture speaks a thousand words. Al Tompkins wrote “pictures overwhelm the words they cover” and when visual competes with verbal for TV, “the eye wins.” So, I would love to learn how to tell stories with pictures and soundbites. I want to learn the theory behind aesthetics of taking pictures, such as lighting, framing, structure, etc. For video, I want to learn how to shoot videos to accompany and support the story but not to overwhelm it. Many times I see the beauty of the nature or people, and I want to capture that, but I lack the skills of making that happen as in my imagination. Take related courses and keep practicing would be the simplest ways to achieve my goals.
Online and social media — This is the trend. No matter how much I resisted, now I have accounts for various social media outlets. People get information on Google, read news from online media, and interact with each other on social media. It seems like everything can be done with a computer and internet now. There are so many ways to engage with the mass audiencefrom all around the world, build personal network and brand myself. I can start from making a comment on Twitter, posting a short video on Instagram, updating my profile on LinkedIn and building my portfolio on WordPress.
Research and fact checking ability — There are many ways to get information nowadays, and it is not easy to figure out what is true and what is not. I think research before writing a story and check the facts afterwards are basic skills to possess as a journalist. The audience relies on journalists for accurate information, and we can’t fail their expectations. Otherwise, we will lose them even faster. In order to practice, I will do some research of the person and his/her works before interviewing and send him a copy of the story after I’m finished to ensure the accuracy. I will check the facts for the information that I don’t know when I read news stories.
Real-world experience — Finally, take all the skills I will learn from class and apply them to the real world would be the last step. I’m currently on the news team at WSUM student radio on campus, which I think is a good starting place. It could be expanded to writing for one of the school newspapers, interning at Wisconsin Public Radio or Wisconsin Public Television that are conveniently located for the J-schoolers. Going on tours to local newsrooms would be a good experience, too.
Talk show “One Thousand and One Nights” at WSUM 91.7 FM with co-hosts Mohammad Najafian and Muge Niu, summer 2013
A visit to Channel 3000/WISC-TV newsroom, with News Anchors Eric Franke and Michelle Li, Sports Director Jay Wilson and Meteorologist Karin Swanson. (photo credit: SPJ UW-Madison chapter)
I have heard many stories from successful journalists, and they say opportunities are always for the ones who are ready. Wanting to become an international journalist with the focus of broadcasting isn’t an easy task. I have to be open-minded, working hard and seeking opportunities, which will prepare me to be ready. I hope ten years after I graduate from the J-school, I can proudly say that I’ve made my dream com true.