Finding Your Niche: Journalism as a Minor
Written by Breana Noble
I interned in Washington, D.C., through the National Journalism Center at Newsmax Media, Inc. after my freshman year at Hillsdale. The message I kept hearing from reporters: Find your niche.
Once you find a niche and develop it through extensive research and writing, you can create your brand and set yourself apart from other journalists. That way, when a story on that specific topic comes up, news agencies know whom to contact if they need a writer.
With this in mind, Hillsdale encourages its journalism students to pursue other fields of study by only offering journalism as a minor. This frees students to discover other passions and major in a subject that could later become their niche in the workforce. After all, while journalism itself is mastered through practice, studying a different subject allows students to later write about it with expertise.
Kate Bachelder ODell, class of ’13, studied political economy at Hillsdale and was heavily involved with the journalism program and our award-winning newspaper, The Collegian. Today she is an editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal.
“A core academic discipline is an indispensable thing to have,” Kate said. “I now work for a newspaper that focuses on taxes and economics, and I am more comfortable with discussing these issues because I studied them in college.”
Kate said her favorite class in college was Advanced Writing, the pinnacle of the journalism department’s courses taught by John J. Miller, director of the Dow Journalism Program.
“It’s a class on human nature but expressed on paper through the written word,” Kate said. “It gave me the core skills to evaluate something and think about it in the context of history or even in something I read in Dante. These types of vignettes are more useful than anything I could have memorized.”
She uses this type of critical thinking for the pieces she writes in the WSJ by connecting big, abstract ideas to reality and everyday people.
“Nothing I learned in a textbook helped me do that,” Kate said. “Expert knowledge is no substitution for the human condition and human story.”
That’s why Hillsdale’s journalism program emphasizes original reporting in the field—experiencing the places, speaking with the people involved, and writing it for the proper audience. Skills of observation, interviewing, and storytelling are difficult to teach in a classroom. They must be practiced.
“Journalism majors tend to focus on updating you on the latest technology,” Kate said. “Hillsdale gave me skills that will adapt to however the technology or the wind changes.”
While The Collegian provides opportunities for students to experiment with social media and documentary-style videos, its focus remains on good reporting and storytelling. And, of course, finding your niche.
Breana Noble, ’18, is a student from Michigan studying American studies and journalism. She is a member of the Dow Journalism Program; is an assistant news editor for Hillsdale’s school newspaper, the Collegian, and has interned at Newsmax Media in Washington, D.C. through the National Journalism Center.