By Keeley Sheehan
My parents have always told me to have a backup plan, just in case Life Plan A doesn’t work out. But sometimes Plan A is hard enough to come up with, much less a backup plan. Jim Militello reinforced this idea for me when he spoke to our class Thursday.
He graduated from UB with a degree in psychology in 1979. He took a very offbeat path into journalism, showing that there really is no “right” way of going about it.
I continue to learn this lesson the more I talk to people in the journalism field. At UB Coast to Coast in Los Angeles, what struck me the most was how varied all the speakers’ paths into the field were. I had been debating whether I should apply to graduate journalism programs, and listening to the differing opinions helped me decide that it was really a decision I had to make for myself, without turning to others for advice. Some people from the symposium went to grad school, some hadn’t.
There were some, like Cynthia Wang, assistant editor for People Magazine, who didn’t seem to think that grad school was a good option, and that you’re better off learning on the job straight out of undergrad.
There were others, like Sean Nealon, a reporter for the Riverside Press Enterprise (and a former Spectrum staffer), who went to Columbia but also wasn’t too pro-grad school because when he’d gone, he hadn’t known what to expect and didn’t think he got everything out of it that he could have.
After listening to so many opinions, I decided the best thing to do was to consider them but not take them for more than they were worth. I’m applying to grad programs because after taking a look at the type of person I am, what I want out of life and what I want out of a career in journalism, I decided grad school is the right move for me.
Jim said, “Don’t ever, ever follow this career path.” And he’s right. It worked for him, but there’s no cookie cutter way to break into the business. Undergrad is great to learn the basic skills journalists need, but after that, the specifics are up to us.