You Don’t Need a “J-School” to get Good Experience

“Why aren’t you going to Mizzou?” “You know Mizzou is one of the best J-Schools in the country, don’t you?” “Why wouldn’t you study journalism at Mizzou? The have such a great program.”

I heard many variations of these questions/statements when I would tell people I chose Southern Illinois University Edwardsville to study journalism (Well, technically “Mass Communications with a specialization in print and electronic journalism”) instead of Mizzou — the “best Journalism school in the country.” The reason? I just didn’t want to.

I have nothing against Mizzou, its journalism program or anything associated with the university. I know many people who graduate from the program go on to do amazing things in the industry.

But I had no desire to go there.

Partially because 90 percent of my high school goes to Mizzou just about every year and partially because I was tired of hearing about how everyone who studies journalism needs to go to Mizzou. Everybody who wants to make anything of themselves has to be in the J-School. And I knew that wasn’t the case.

It’s not about the school’s name on the piece of paper you get when you graduate. It’s about the work you produce and what you learn at the school you chose. And I’m proud to say I chose SIUE, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My time working for the Alestle, SIUE’s student paper, was great. It was, by far, the best experience of my time at SIUE. From the day I set foot in that office for my interview as an intimidated, but excited little freshman, I knew it was the right place to be. I learned more from the student editors there, than I think I could have ever learned in a classroom.

And that little voice inside my head that (to this day) forces me to keep changing around my stories, asking more questions, constantly getting clarification on things that (at first glance) don’t seem like that big of a deal, that’s the voice of a former Alestle editor in chief.

As helpful as my professors were, and as much as I did learn in the classroom setting, nothing compares to the first-hand experience I got at the Alestle. And it’s not just because it was a campus newspaper that offers a good starting point for baby reporters. It’s because everybody cared about the paper. They cared about the final product. They wanted every story to answer every possible question it could answer. They wanted every single reporter to improve with every story. It wasn’t just about improving yourself and generating clips for your portfolio, it was about everybody improving together — about everybody being passionate about the paper and its success.

I know that happens at schools like Mizzou too. But I don’t think I would have enjoyed the experience as much. There’s just something about the Alestle, and the people who are truly dedicated to the paper, that makes them stand out, makes them more passionate, more driven, more sincere than anyone else I’ve ever met.

Plus, I never would have met these awesome people if I chose any school over SIUE:

The Alestle Editorial Board, 2010-2011

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2 thoughts on “You Don’t Need a “J-School” to get Good Experience

  1. I completely agree. In my area, there are two major universities that have a good journalism program, but I’m completely content at my school that only has a journalism minor. Because of that, I’ve received a lot of 1 on 1 experience from my professors and have taken on roles not possible at other schools.

  2. Exactly. I feel like the smaller programs allow students to get more one-on-one attention and to develop closer professional relationships with their professors, which, in turn, can help with job leads, internships, etc.

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