Filak Furlough Tour Update: Hanging Out With Siena Heights University

The one stop we did last week on the Filak Furlough Tour that we didn’t get to blogging about was at Siena Heights University. Renee Collins was nice enough to invite me into her class, where the goal was to talk about the importance of journalism and what the point of this career actually is.

There are many days journalism seems pointless or just an excuse to take a beating from the general public, but for those of us who have done it, or continue to do it, there can be something magical about the experience.

Plus, you don’t come home smelling like a McNugget most days, so there’s that…

Siena Heights University – Adrian, MI

The wonderful world of technical difficulties has me talking randomly until the mic works or the people outside my office think I’m in need of a stay at the local asylum…

THE TOPIC: What’s the point of what we’re doing and why we do it?

THE BASICS: Journalism carries with it a huge amount of opportunities and responsibilities. In most cases, I find that we can meet those challenges if we know our audience and have a general sense that fairness matters.

One of the things I didn’t talk about, but I think merits discussion here, is that people who read our stuff that think we’re biased are often more upset that we’re not taking their side in an issue. I remember covering some committee meeting that would lead to some recommendation to the city council. Clearly,  the meeting itself was not memorable, but the resulting discussions were.

The day it ran, I bumped into a source who said they read the article and then chastised me for putting a liberal slant on it. Not more than 20 minutes later,  another source saw me and complained about how the right-wing Wisconsin State Journal had co-opted another reporter and another story. In other words, I was both too liberal for the conservative and too conservative for the liberal.

I used to say that if your journalism ticked off everyone, you were doing a  good job. That’s not entirely true, but the underlying premise that you should not curry favor among a group with fawning or supporting coverage remains an important one in the world of media. This response from sports journalist Jeff Pearlman on Twitter/X makes a pretty good case for this concept:

My response?

Leave being liked to kindergarten teachers and birthday clowns. I’ll take being helpful to my readers and respected by my peers.


BEST QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you need a master’s degree or more education to be a journalist?

BEST ANSWER I HAD AT THE TIME: In most cases, no. If you have a bachelor’s degree in the discipline or a tangential discipline (I know not every school has a BA/BS in journalism, but a lot of them have certificates, minors, etc.) that’s enough to check the box for the degree part of the job requirements.

What’s more important is what you can do for the people out there who want to hire you. That’s why I’m always pitching student media outlets and groups to the kids in my classes. It’s also true that your GPA will not matter at the end of days.

I’ve had plenty of “C students” who got great jobs because they were out in the field for a student newspaper, a student radio station, a student TV station, an internship, a part-time media job or a mix of all of those instead of keeping up with their classwork. I’ve also had an unfortunate number of “A students” who couldn’t get a job because they didn’t have any clips, a solid reel or the other pro elements that hiring managers want to see.

(Conversely, yes, the opposites on both of those are true: A kids who who pour their lives into class and student media get great jobs as well, while C kids who can’t find their fanny with a road  map end up driving for Domino’s instead of working in media. Rest assured, I’m not besmirching students with GPAs above the Mendoza Line.)

The time to go for a master’s or a doctorate is usually dictated by one of two things: First, if you are in need of additional training in a specialty area that was not fully available to you in your bachelor’s, a master’s degree makes sense.

For example, let’s say you were doing a lot of writing and you kind of liked it, but you took a graphics course and you found your muse. However, your university only had that one course and you felt you wanted a lot more education on this topic. Taking a master’s program at a place like Ball State University, which is well-known for its graphic and design program, would be a smart choice.

Second, if you decided that you wanted to teach at the college level, most programs require a grad degree of some kind. If you thought about doing some adjuncting, a master’s usually cuts the muster on this, so that would make sense. If you thought about turning this whole thing into a tenure-track career, the Ph.D. has become almost a union card for universities that hire folks in this capacity.

Next Stop: The University of Central Missouri

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