Reflections on WJC: AWARE

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At the beginning of this semester, I blogged about how I expected to “get engaged” through my time in the Washington Journalism Center. Now, a week after my semester in D.C. has ended, I have come to the conclusion that, yes, I did have many opportunities to engage with the neighborhoods and community surrounding me, but more than that, I’m leaving this semester: AWARE.

Aware of the Issues 

So, first let me start out with a confession (I tend to have a lot of those on this blog): As a journalism student, I did not keep up with current events and news nearly as much as I should have. Thankfully, my professor for the semester, and the founder of WJC, drove in the importance of reading. Read my internship’s publication, read the publications relevant to D.C. and overall read to stay informed. Going into this semester, I wondered how journalists develop the content and background behind each story. The simple answer–read.

As I started subscribing to e-newsletters and read the main stories of each day, I started to feel more connected to what was going on both nationally and internationally. It might be the journalism nerd in me, but there is a thrill that comes with being able to connect news stories and articles with every day life. All of a sudden, I would be at an event and the speaker would talk about something that I had just read about, and because of that I felt both engaged and aware with what I was observing and learning this semester.

Aware of the State of the Media

Both inside and outside the classroom, I learned about how much the media is evolving, innovating and thriving. Prior to this semester, I knew the industry had its share of challenges, but I didn’t really understand the dynamics of it all. However, through classes on topics such as “the business model crisis of the media” and the opportunity to attend the American Press Institute and Poynter’s Digital Storytelling Summit, I came to understand more about the impact the digital age is having on journalism. A few months ago, I would’ve never associated terms like startups and big data with journalism, but now, I can’t think of one without thinking about the other.

Aware of Big Data

Speaking of big data, startups and the digital age, thanks to my internship at 1776, a D.C. based startup incubator, I became more aware of the influence and importance big data and analytics have not only in media, but in all industries. Have you ever had someone tell you about something you’ve never heard of before and then after they tell you about it, you see it everywhere? Well, that’s what my internship did for me. I didn’t know what a startup incubator was before I started my internship, but by the end of the semester, I felt immersed in the startup, tech world. I also became aware of how broad of a reach tech and data has on everything. Every news article I read had some sort of tie back to technological developments, social media challenges, privacy concerns, etc. The fact that technology has become a significant part of our lives and culture was not a new concept to me, but being at 1776 helped me really understand and experience that first hand.

Aware of How Much I Have to Learn

Speaking of ignorance, I often describe this semester as humbling. After being editor-in-chief at my previous college’s newspaper and attending a couple journalism conferences, I felt like I had a fairly good grasp of journalism. I knew I wasn’t ready to go straight into the field and learning is a lifelong process, but I didn’t know how much I didn’t know. Through my experiences this semester, getting edits and grades back from my advisers, I was quickly knocked off of my high horse. I’ll admit, that was discouraging at first, but I’m thankful for it because it gave me areas to focus on and grow in. I do not want to find out what would’ve happened if I went on in ignorant bliss only to have a brutal reality check once I hit the workforce.

Looking back on my semester, I am so grateful for all the opportunities and experiences that I had. I expected to learn a lot from this semester, but I did not expect the types of lessons I would learn. There are so many issues, topics and lessons that I could talk about, but I’m still processing all of this and also, I want to spare you from reading a really long blog post. Most of my semester though can be summed up into the word: aware. This may sound cliche, but after my WJC semester, I will never see the world the same way again. It has opened my eyes and changed my perspective in ways that I could’ve never expected or imagined.

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