I'm Studying Journalism and Proud Of It.
Updated: Jun 29
by Olivia Deffes
Choosing a major is hard when family and friends don't fully support your choice. Like many other journalism students, I am tired of being asked if I will write fake news. I don't take it lightly. I've worked too hard during my college years, and I will not let the idea of the "lying media" determine my worth as a journalist.
I never liked Career Day in elementary school. I just couldn’t decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. My mom always dressed me up in some basic costume and sent me on my way, but I never held the same excitement as the other kids did when they showed up in their scrubs with dreams of being veterinarians.
When I was a senior in high school, I found myself faced with what I thought would be some of the hardest decisions of my adult life: finding a college and choosing a major. If I’m being honest, I knew I’d end up at Louisiana State University; it was close to home and I already knew people attending. The hard part was picking a career path.
I never thought about my college major when I was young. Nothing really piqued my interest. I enjoyed writing, so my mom told me to just try journalism, and if I hated it, I could change.
But as I started my mass communication classes in the fall of 2018, I didn’t hate it. In fact, I finally felt that passion I was craving for years. I had a spark. I had excitement. I had aspirations and goals of a future career in journalism, but as I began telling family and friends about my major, I was met with comments that made me less confident.
Nothing gets my blood boiling more than a family member asking me if I’m going to be a part of the “lying media.”
With family from the deep South, many members voted for Donald Trump. I’m not here to come for anyone’s political views, but I feel like my relatives have taken Trump’s words about fake news and turned it into a skewed perception that the media’s main goal is to feed lies to the public.
I’ll never forget my Aunt Janice’s Christmas Eve party in 2018. As a new college student, I finally had an answer when distant family members clapped their hands on my shoulder and asked, “So, what are you up to?” I could finally say that I was an LSU student pursuing a career in journalism.
One of the first people to greet me was my uncle. He is one of the people I look forward to seeing every Christmas Eve because he gives the warmest hugs and gets everyone in the Christmas spirit.
As I was chatting to my uncle about life, he asked me what I was studying in college. I proudly said print journalism, but the response I got made me less proud to confirm my aspirations.
“You’re not going to be writing that fake news, are you?” he said with a laugh. But I could tell that he truly felt distrust towards the professionals in journalism.
I laughed this off and told him I really wanted to write entertainment pieces; maybe even work for Rolling Stone magazine. He smiled and congratulated me, but I could tell he’d be more excited for me if I said I was going for engineering or pre-med.
This interaction made me question my future. Would I not be taken seriously? Should I have taken a more traditional major with a career? I didn’t know, but I knew that I still loved journalism enough to explore it more. I stuck with my decision and continued pitching ideas, conducting interviews and writing stories.
This was not the first time the fake news card was dealt my way. Countless adults have commented to me about fake news or told me I should always report the truth.
If I could go back in time to talk to those people, I’d ask how dare you discredit my integrity as a journalist before I even begin my career?
You have never known the professors who have given me a score of a five out of 25 on a story because I misspelled someone’s name by a letter?
You haven’t heard me ask an interviewee the same question three times for clarification, so the details aren’t wrong in my story.
Instead, you sit there and believe insecure politicians who tell you the media spreads lies when distasteful truth is published about them.
Sure, I’ll be the first to admit that there have been deceitful people in journalism. There have been people who have unknowingly reported something incorrectly and have faced consequences. Though these people exist, the main purpose of the media is to report and inform the public, not lie to the people they serve.
In the summer of 2020, I was met with more criticism and unwanted advice about pursuing journalism. At the time, I was working at a day camp for my alma mater. Trey Labat, a teacher I never had, was working carline with me. I asked him if he attended the Manship School of Mass Communication at LSU because I recalled him mentioning it.
Labat confirmed that he was an alumnus, and I was excited to strike up a conversation. He asked me what my concentration was, and I replied print journalism. He looked like he felt sorry for me then began to laugh.
“Oh God, change it,” Labat warned. “I was print, too. Let me just tell you it takes too much of your time and pays nothing.”
I was discouraged after hearing that, but then again, I didn’t want to be like him.
So no, Mr. Labat, I will not change my major. Perhaps you didn’t have the same passion for journalism as I do. I know it’ll be hard work. I know I won’t have a doctor’s salary, but if I love journalism, isn’t that all that really matters?
I’ll continue to pursue journalism. I’ll continue to report the truth. I’ll continue to stand by my decision.
One day, when they read my name on that byline in Rolling Stone magazine, I hope they know that it was their naysaying that led me to that newsroom.