A journalism degree in uncertain times

I anticipate the economy to decline. I anticipate travel to be more restricted, crowds to be smaller and my country to be a little more anxious. Graduating from university in the midst of a global pandemic makes me feel anything but prepared, hopeful and secure for my future in journalism.

John Schmeltzer, a journalism professor of mine, sent an email this week confirming that “we are in uncharted territories as media outlets across the country slash costs” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pay cuts and furloughs have been announced nationally at some of the largest newspaper companies in America. The future of journalism has never looked so uncertain. But I believe that journalism has never been so necessary.

The Nation suggests that saving local journalism can help fight COVID-10. We are living in an era where an abundance of easily accessible and accurate information is crucial. Despite the need for information, newspapers are shutting down or slowing down across the country. How do we fix this?

First, we have to establish the issue. News sources made a serious mistake when they started giving away information as the internet expanded. Former Oklahoma Watch reporter Scott Carter recently spoke in my community journalism class about this issue. The public has gotten used to the idea important information should be free. In the same class, my peers and I conducted research around Norman regarding local news. After interviewing hundreds of Normanites, we learned that most people don’t think local news is worth paying for. This mentality is the root of the issue. Journalists cannot provide information freely. The public must recognize this.

I want to provide news to the public. It is essential for our democracy. But the field cannot survive without support of the public. I may be amongst the last of the print journalism majors (which makes me quite sad). I want to show the public how important our role is in our society, especially in a time like today. I can’t do that alone. If I could give a message to the public, it would be this:

If you want to be informed on a local, national or international level,
If you want to participate in politics, business or community events,
If you want to hold your government accountable,
If you want to know how your schools spend money,
If you want to share your own voice,
Give to local journalism.

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