As a first-year journalism student at the University of King’s College, I want to acknowledge some of the pains and joys of beginning J-school during a time when the world feels very overwhelming but also full of possibilities. Have you ever wondered what it’s like to start chasing the news of the world? Look no further!
You gotta have enough money to invest in that beautiful new Canon EOS camera so you won’t look like a fake, wannabe journalist with your crappy iPhone camera. You can take a break from tipping drag queens with “unlimited” $10 bills. You can study at the library instead of a cafe to avoid paying exorbitant prices for iced chai lattes.
Actually pay to subscribe to a reputable news source
This will be you someday: a reporter complaining about how nobody pays for news anymore, while everyone gets bite-sized news from TikTokers who don’t know what they’re talking about. Same with exploring Twitter rabbit holes, those that lead to a veterinary scientist claiming vaccines give you rabies.
So come on, it’s only the price of one budget night out, or one grocery bill, for a year’s subscription to one of many outlets. One precious grocery bill. Don’t ignore those emails pleading with you to pay, asking you to be part of the five per cent of people who care. Don’t you care?
Get enough sleep
Perhaps nighttime is when all your story ideas come to you, those “aha!” moments of “what if I wrote about people harvesting seaweed from the ocean” or “why did Neil Young remove removed his music from Spotify?”
Or perhaps the night is when you dive deep into how the United States political system works, watching YouTube videos and Ted Talks until your brain hurts.
But honey, getting enough sleep will keep you awake when you have to film yourself tomorrow. And will keep you from falling asleep during the interview about the nitty gritty details of inflation. Plus, do you really think any of the dry information you learned at 2 a.m. about the U.S. political system will stay in your brain? Nobody wants to see those bags under your eyes.
Get new notebooks and fancy pens!
Those little pocket-sized notebooks are life savers. You can bring them when you’re in the field, taking notes on the beautiful provincial park that is being turned into an Amazon warehouse. Maybe try Rite in the Rain notebooks, because you will cry writing that story about homeless dogs (claim it’s allergies all you want, nobody will believe you). You can also bring them when you’re eavesdropping on strangers or writing down funny things your friends say (Remember that you have permission to be nosy, you’re a journalist!).
Take care of your mental health
Yes, it’s 2023, a year closer to the 2030 deadline when political leaders need to stop enjoying their fancy conferences and start recognizing climate change as a pandemic. Yes, if we keep going at the rate we’re going, we’ll be in a bad place (to put it lightly).
And yes, the invasion of Ukraine is still going on, with Russian campaigns killing about 40,000 Ukrainian civilians (as of last November). That’s with more Russian soldiers being forcefully sacrificed to the front lines at the will of their dictator.
And yes, grocery prices and housing prices are sky-high. And yes, the healthcare system is a mess. And yes, and yes, and yes.
How does one cope with all this? You can go swimming in the ocean in January if you want to. Eat as much chocolate as you want or get those post-Christmas discounts. And Dalhousie University offers free therapy (up to 10 free sessions per year)!
There are health system and mental health crises in the way of our important health resources. But I assure you, it’s gonna be okay. Intersperse those heavy news articles with ones about, let’s say, the Eurasian blackbird appearing in Labrador or the science of working out.
Take advantage of free drag shows and concerts around town, show off that fancy pen, do your makeup and wear heels to the interview. Being a journalist can be fun, aside from all of the late nights and stress and awkward silences in interviews. You can even put up your newspaper cuttings on your wall, or send them to your grandma. She’ll be so proud.
Think of her, reading something you wrote about pumpkins with her morning coffee just like she reads a New York Times article about the future of heat pumps for retrofitting homes. Who says you can’t be the next Joan Didion?