The Power of the People

It’s my senior year…part one.  You’re probably thinking to yourself “Huh?  What do you mean it is part one of your senior year?… I thought people were only a senior once, for a year, and then they graduated?”  Well, OK… I see your point.  Let me try to clarify. 

This is my fourth year at Maryville.  I’ve attended since fall 2008, so therefore, yes, it does make me technically a “senior” if you put it in the traditional sense.  However, in the “new sense” people nowadays are not necessarily finishing college in four years.  Yes, people mostly enroll in Bachelor degree programs that are designed to be completed in four years, but others do not.  Others take advantage of five year Master’s degree programs or even 6+ year doctorate degrees.  While I’m not a Master’s or doctoral student, I am not finishing a traditional four year degree in four years. 

When I started at Maryville, I knew I wanted to work with kids.  I had just finished volunteering that summer after high school graduation with preschoolers and knew I wanted to make that my career.  I also loved art, so I thought, why not become an art teacher?  I proceeded to enroll in the Maryville art education program. 

I started those art classes and realized how demanding they were.   I was told in final portfolio review that maybe a professional career in art wasn’t for me, but that I could still do art as a hobby.  So, I decided to drop the art portion of the degree and aspire to be an early childhood teacher.  I slowly discovered the challenges of leading a group of kids during my practicum experiences and then was gradually persuaded to reconsider my major. 

I thought to myself… what am I going to do now?  It is my senior year of college and I’m changing majors again?  Thoughts raced inside my head.  I don’t want to be in college for another four years and graduate with a Bachelor’s degree at the age of 26! 

I decided to speak with the Career counselor.  I discussed my interests in English and Communication.  I have always been told that I have strong writing skills.  When I was in high school, I contemplated majoring in Journalism.  My mom told me that while it was “fun”, I would be better going for a degree that would surely land me an exact job.  Now, sitting in my old adviser’s office with the Assistant Dean, I decided to make the change and my mom agreed. 

I met with the Program Director about a month before the start of classes.  I told her of my passions for writing and art, and she helped convince me that this could be the “right” major for me.  I was nothing short of excited. 

Classes began in August and I loved every single one.  I particularly enjoyed my News Writing and Editing and my student newspaper classes.  I have a passion for journalism and loved becoming engrossed in everything involving reporting, writing, and editing. 

I feel that journalism will never die.  Without it, there would be no way to become involved in our world and in our relatively small communities which we live.  One new method of reporting lies in social media.  Like I told someone the other day, I believe that one day social media will rule the world.  It will definitely takeover.  There is so much knowledge to be gained from Twitter and Facebook.  Twitter was like a dream to me – a means of getting all updates on anything and everything I enjoy – all in one spot.

In particular, social media definitely is changing journalism.  As those of us who grew up in St. Louis, like myself, we have noticed the gradual shrinking of the Post Dispatch over the past decade.  As the Post paper shrinks, its Twitter grows.  I have seen very few reporters who are NOT on Twitter.   Plus, the growing trend of hyperlocal news is expanding, with  sites like Patch, where you can connect with your community.  In one of my fall classes we had two guest speakers from Patch, former Maplewood-Brentwood editor Ryan Martin and St. Louis regional editor Kurt Greenbaum.  They told us of their site and how their mission of journalist is “to serve the community.”  Patch has a growing social media presence with bloggers, fans on Facebook, and followers on Twitter. 

An article by Austin-based news organization Statesman (2010) discusses how social media is reshaping journalism.   

“Social media have gone mainstream, but what does that really mean? Sure, you can share pictures from a party quicker, and with more people than ever before (including long-forgotten high school classmates). You can also see what Lance Armstrong is up to at any given moment or share your opinion of a new restaurant.

What is going under the radar a little is the effect social media have had on journalism.

The dramatic technological changes that played a part in the news industry’s well-documented problems have also opened opportunities for journalists to connect with the public on an unprecedented level. We still report facts and give you the news, but the rise of social media has changed how a story is told and consumed.”

With everyone having instant access to social media, a comment is a click away on a journalist’s story.  As much as a reader would call the phone number or write the email address posed in the newspaper article, a person can now post a message to a journalist’s social media account and have the message read by more than a million readers.  In our democracy today, the “power of the people” certainly plays a role in journalism coupled with emerging social media. 

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~ by Alexandra J. Gresick on March 26, 2012.

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