What’s Your Major? Journalism

The journalism department at Mercer not only seeks to teach students essential writing skills but also the important ways in which communication and media affect our lives and culture.

According to the journalism and media studies website, central to the pursuit of understanding the complexities of communicating in the 21st century is the concept of story.

With only three faculty members, the journalism and media studies department is not the largest department on campus.

“In the department there is myself, Jay and Dr. Gottshall. Jay teaches most of the journalism classes and I teach a few as well,” said John Chalfa, head of the journalism and media studies department.

“It has been offered off and on for probably more than 30 years. It was part of the English department for a while; then, when it was still in Communication and Theatre Arts, it grew in popularity,” Chalfa said.

The small size of the faculty does not affect the number of students declaring a major in journalism.

“We have roughly between 45 and 50 majors. There are some minors. I’d say with both the majors and minors we certainly go over 50 students, but they are mostly majors,” Black said.

“Obviously you could work as a journalist in newspaper, online or television. A lot of people go into the public relations field and a surprising number of our students go on to law school. It is good prep for that because of the critical thinking and writing skills we teach,” Chalfa said.

“The time that a journalism degree trained just reporters is over. Now a journalism degree is made up of compiling information and disseminating that information. Businesses are interested in this. We have former students working in media sales but 60 percent of our students go on to get post-graduate degrees,” Black said.

The department also has a variety of internships available to students in the Macon area and through other universities.

“We have placed students at TV stations, radio stations, newspapers. Over the summer students get internships working with organizations in their hometown or community,” Chalfa said.

“We are partnered with George Washington University and through the Semester in Washington program we have students that intern with Smithsonian Magazine, ESPN, CNN, ABC News and others,” Black said.

“We strongly encourage our students to have internships because until you are out in the real world you don’t know if media is what you really want to do,” Black said.

Journalism major Emily Milone is one student who knows that media is for her.

“Being a journalism major I would really like to write for an important newspaper or magazine, mainly writing about world problems and things that really matter to people all over the world,” Milone said.

“I decided to become a journalism major because I really enjoy writing articles about the everyday situations and occurrences throughout the world. I always knew I enjoyed writing articles in high school, but when I took my first journalism class here at Mercer I immediately knew that was the field for me,” Milone said.

Milone feels that JMS offers a variety of different classes that allow students to get a true feel of the major and decide exactly what they want to do.

“Although some JMS classes I am required to take don’t have anything to do with what I want to do in the future, it still gives me great experience to know exactly what the journalism field is all about,” Milone said.

“The hardest thing about being a journalism major is definitely the amount of lengthy papers we have to do every semester. I do enjoy writing, but almost every semester that I have been at Mercer I have been given one to three 15-20 page papers, which is very difficult to handle,” Milone said.
However, there are more enjoyable aspects of journalism as well.

“The best thing about being a journalism major is the fact that we are always up to date on worldly issues and situations. We are also, for the most part, given the freedom in most JMS classes to write our own opinions and reactions to these situations, which to me is something I find very beneficial,” Milone said.

Milone would advise any students interested in being a journalism major to have an open mind.

“There are many different JMS courses you can take at Mercer, all offering different aspects of journalism. Be sure to have an open mind to all of them before you decide exactly what you want to do with your JMS degree,” Milone said.