During my second year of graduate school at Temple University, I was enrolled in this nearly impossible class: Editing the News I. You'd think we'd just be copy editing existing articles or learning the ins and outs of the editing world but it was so much more than that. For starters, we had to bring all 14 of our textbooks to class every day. Yes, 14. All of us had rolling bookbags to accommodate the load. I remember having to take SEPTA with my stupid rolling suitcase of books, resenting the world as I rolled my way down Girard Ave into work. We never used all 14 books in one class. At the most, we used 3 or 4. But we'd get called out if we forgot one. It was ridiculous.
Our assignments were also unreal. We'd have to read a chapter and summarize it. Hey, not a big deal. But we'd also be given some huge task like creating a double truck layout on whales or collecting and identifying leaves. THEN we had to find time to study for the following quizzes which took place every class: a spelling test, a geography test where we had to fill in blank maps AND spell the locations correctly (capitals, states, countries, major landmarks, rivers...anything was fair game), an AP Stylebook and New York Times Stylebook quiz (random questions from each book...we'd be quizzed on ABC entries on week one and EGF on week two), and a visual dictionary quiz (the prof picked a random entry and we'd have to memorize it and regurgitate the facts on that page).
Every Monday we'd start class with those quizzes. Then we'd grade each others. We'd get the laundry list of assignments for the following week and the prof would teach a short lesson. The class was almost 3 hours and at the time I hated it.
I'd have hissy fits and throw my suitcase of books in the middle of the room or knock over a pile of books on my desk. I had a crying spell in the elevator once because I felt so challenged that I didn't think I was going to pass. It was the hardest class I ever took in my life and I ended up getting an A-.
I've been out of school for a year now and I miss it. Last night I felt so disconnected from journalism that I sought out my old Editing books. I realized how happy I was that I had them. While it was a pain to drag all 14 of them to class, I now have this library of journalism information at my disposal. The stressful, deadline driven random assignments? That emulates the newsroom. That is what journalism would be like every day. Here are 1,000 things you must accomplish in 72 hours, go. The class was preparing us for the real world and giving us the resources to succeed as journalists. Kind of like the Karate kid, we were beaten down in practice and realized our strength and resilience after the fact.
I've started rereading "Think Like an Editor" and doing the activities in the back of the chapters. I'm hoping to refresh my journalism mind so I don't lose all of the things I learned in graduate school. It is easy to lose sight of the skills from your passion when your work is so far removed from anything you actually want to do for the rest of your life. I'm a babysitting paper pusher. I make a difference but not in the way that makes me feel like I make a difference.
Battles prepare us for what lies ahead. I'd like to think that this stagnant career situation is preparing me for something. As the dust begins to collect on my degree and my desired field relies on unpaid interns to survive, I plan to use this time to refresh my memory and remind myself how to be an incredible journalist. I can't lose that part of me.
Until next time...