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Take it from a college student: Journalism matters 

Why I want to be a journalist

click to enlarge Emily Ng is a Colorado College student who has written for The Catalyst newspaper for three years. She graduates in 2020 and plans to pursue a career in journalism. - AMY K PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Amy K Photography
  • Emily Ng is a Colorado College student who has written for The Catalyst newspaper for three years. She graduates in 2020 and plans to pursue a career in journalism.

Oprah Winfrey is one of the most successful women in the world. Her name magnifies the value of any brand; even Amazon has given her a specialized holiday shopping page. Most people know that Winfrey hosted a TV talk show, but few are as familiar with her first career: a short stint as a TV journalist.

Another famous woman, Sarah Palin, received her degree in communications with an emphasis in journalism, but abandoned her journalism career early on to pursue a career in politics, writing and reality TV. 

Olivia Munn chose acting after a brief career in TV journalism.

These strong, powerful women left traditional journalism — long labeled “dying” and “failing” — to pursue successful careers in other fields.

So, why am I studying at Colorado College to become a journalist?

Why board a leaking vessel when it appears some of the world’s most well-known women have jumped ship?

Growing up, the rhythm of my world was set by National Public Radio. My family watched CNN and the local FOX news channel until the heat from the TV damaged our wooden entertainment center. Our house was stuffed with piles of old newspapers, most already pillaged for their King Soopers coupons. Family conversation veered to politics, and news articles were referenced around the dinner table like scripture.

When I was young, I spent my afternoons and evenings in Colorado Springs libraries. I loved math and science, but I was enthralled with the arts. I wrote poems, short stories, and started (but never finished) a few novels.

My mother called me an “old soul.” But, as I grew up I witnessed the strike of Writers Guild of America (2007-08), the decimation of the print media, and the rise of artificial intelligence that apparently composes eloquent text. Most people in my life pressed me to pursue a career outside of journalism or writing. Initially, I conceded.

I came to love studying physics, and I decided to become a doctor. I engineered my entire life around pursuing this goal — volunteering, learning, and researching in the medical field.

My senior year of high school, I was given a gift. While studying for my Advanced Placement Calculus BC final, I stepped out of my classroom to take a phone call from Colorado College admissions.

I nearly fell down a flight of stairs — I had received an all-expenses-paid college scholarship through El Pomar Foundation. I could major in whatever I chose. I knew that I wanted to be a journalist.

In almost all my college applications, I had listed pre-med and journalism, but I hadn’t dreamed of the opportunity to fully, openly and unabashedly pursue a career in the field. The barriers to entry had seemed so high — for most students, entering a lower-paying, unstable field with a mountain of student loans was untenable.

I’ve always had two drives: helping others and uncovering the truth. Growing up close to Colorado College, the quote engraved in Palmer Hall ushered me in like a beacon, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”

During my freshman year, I was free to discover, uncover and rebrand. If I wanted a career in journalism, I couldn’t waste time in medical school, and CC doesn’t offer a journalism major. So I chose a major that suited my interest in people and numbers: Mathematical Economics.

I affiliated with the school’s newspaper, The Catalyst, and I immersed myself in local stories. I have pursued multimedia work, and I am continuing to build my audio and video portfolio.

Meanwhile, in January, the Columbia Journalism Review reported 1,000 layoffs at BuzzFeed and media properties owned by Verizon and Gannett. Business Insider stated that over 2,400 media employees have lost their jobs this year. According to The Denver Post, last year the paper laid off 30 percent of its newsroom.

Funding for journalism is dwindling, and the field is more cutthroat than ever before. Papers have fallen. Networks have conglomerated, but the institution has yet to “fail.” Through scrutiny, errors and transformations, it persists. As society evolves, so does journalism.

If there’s any time for someone like me to enter this field, it’s now. Over the past three years since I won that full-ride to college, I’ve learned and matured. Now, I’m ready to take on the indispensable duties of our country’s Fourth Estate.

I know it’s going to be a battle, but I’m ready for a good fight.

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