DS View: Courage

Success for journalists in the current market relies on more than having good grades.

Five members of The Dakota Student staff represented UND at the Associated Collegiate Press “Best of the Midwest” conference last weekend.

The Feb. 4 issue of The Dakota Student was awarded third place for four-year weekly newspapers, and I was awarded fourth place for single page design. While this was a chance to compare our newspaper to those from other colleges in the Midwest, it was mainly a learning experience in other ways.

The event stressed journalistic versatility, courage and making connections, but it focused very little on education. In essence, the success for journalists in the current market doesn’t rely on having good grades. It doesn’t even rely on taking the right classes or having a degree in communications or journalism. Success, in this field, relies on courage and experience.

Keynote speaker Mizell Stewart emphasized courage more than anything, and although it seemed cliché at first, his advice hit home with me.

Stewart explained that courage is not the absence of fear, rather, courage is being conscious of fear and proceeding anyway. In the field of journalism, courage is being able to talk to strangers, writing with passion and subjecting yourself to possible embarrassment with every story you write.

Oddly enough, I am one of the few editors of The Dakota Student that is actually aspiring to be a journalist. Through four years of communications and English classes, I’ve earned As on 20-page essays, practice news articles and research papers, but I didn’t have the courage to be published until last fall. Sadly, in terms of my resume, my years of academic work means very little.

This doesn’t apply to all majors. Law students, engineering majors and future accountants should strive for 4.0 GPAs, but majors in communications should worry about getting a foot in the door of an established place.

Star Tribune writer Neal Justin made it clear that having experience is the best way to stand out in a pool of applicants, and schoolwork does not count as experience.

This is where I see the ideas of courage and experience blending. Classes can teach you how to write, edit, shoot video –  any of the skills needed in the media industry – but students need the courage to use these skills outside of the classroom.

Overall, UND gives students a fair chance to gain experience through The Dakota Student and Studio One, but the options are limited. It is, however, the responsibility of the students to gain experience in their own ways and display courage by doing so.

Sam Wigness is the features editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected].