As a journalism educator, I can’t say a recent study came as a real surprise to me, but it is good to have data to back up perceptions. A group of 11 researchers from eight countries, including the United States, sought to learn about journalism students’ motivations and expectations of their work. The entire paper published in Journalism and Mass Communication Educator is compelling, but here are some highlights from what 285 U.S. journalism students had to say.
More than half of students entered school with an interest in soft news, about a quarter found hard news most compelling to cover and slightly more than a fifth had no interest in any kind of journalistic work. Interestingly, students’ interest in producing hard news increased during their time in school, as did the number of students who decided journalism wasn’t right for them at all. (Click on “End” on the graphic to see the change.)
So, why do journalism students sign up for their degree programs? In the U.S., the number one reason is “talent or a liking for writing,” with more than 39 percent weighing in with that response, followed by respect for the profession, a chance to change society and a chance to meet interesting people.
Happily, less than 1 percent of respondents said they were studying journalism because it was “easy to finish,” but 4.3 percent admitted they selected journalism for the “possibility of becoming famous” (sigh).