Magellan Helps English Major Investigate Changing Field of Journalism

Created: December 9, 2016
Last Updated: July 14, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (Dec. 9, 2016) – English major Katie Campbell’s Magellan Project was an experiment of interests stemming from two overarching desires—to work with a small newspaper where she could explore her interests in journalism and to travel to a country uniquely different from her own.

After researching small newspapers in different countries, Katie stumbled upon the Sandton Chronicle in South Africa. She then emailed the newspaper’s editor-in-chief about her interest and experience and asked if they would be willing to hire her as an intern. They agreed, and through her Magellan, Katie gained valuable field-based experience.

At first, Katie shadowed the newspaper’s journalists and editors to learn basic processes and techniques for interviewing, writing, and editing. She then prepared press releases and wrote original articles, covering topics from theater and charity events to news articles, including a challenging story about a dog attack.

In addition to picking up critical technical and writing skills, Katie says she also gained the “ability to interact with, talk to, and approach complete strangers [such as] when I needed to do street interviewing or ask a difficult question, the ability to take criticism well, the bravery to take on a new environment, and, most importantly, confidence.”

While in South Africa, Katie also examined the interaction of print and online journalism and social media to better understand this changing profession. Her independent research provided enriching insight into the field of journalism today.

Contrary to popular belief, Katie found that print journalism is still hanging onto its readership, despite a decline. Though some print newspapers are reluctant to the make the electronic switch, many are wholeheartedly embracing the modernity of 21st century news.

News outlets’ online resources and text alerts direct readers to their print sources. On the flip side, print versions encourage readers to comment on their favorite stories online as well as follow their favorite journalists on social media. This multifaceted intersection between mediums was particularly fascinating, Katie said.

Through it all, Katie learned one very important lesson during her internship—journalism is not in her future. The reality of strict guidelines, low word counts, and lack of creativity in journalistic writing helped her discover that she would rather pursue her Ph.D. in English and teach at the collegiate level after graduation from W&J.

She also gained a wide range of important professional and life skills. “I learned that I can face challenges; I can try new things; I can maintain a job, a social life, and other adult responsibilities completely on my own,” she said. “If I could pass on one piece of advice [to others], I would simply say just have the courage to see the world.”

About the Magellan Project

Established in 2008, Washington & Jefferson College’s unique Magellan Project extends liberal arts learning outside the classroom by providing scholarship funding for students to spend the summer pursuing independent projects and internships in the United States and abroad. Learn more about the Magellan Project on the W&J website.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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