Excerpt of 2012 University of Montana journalism graduate Nick Gast’s speech to classmates:
I think it’s easy to get stressed out about our futures, especially when every guest speaker we’ve had for the past four years talks about a new and exciting way our industry is dying. I’ve spent my fair share of sleepless night lying awake in bed wondering why I chose this degree and the answer I come to is as simple as it is true: because I love what I do.
Sure, in five years the New York Times will probably be a Tumblr … and yes, we’re probably going to use our degrees to write stories like, “25 Cutest Bear Farts,” or we’ll try to make tiny crime machines smile at the Sears portrait studio.
Let’s be honest: It’s going to be brutal out there. But there isn’t a single person in attendance today who doesn’t have a passion for what he or she does.
Letter to Romenesko
From JAYME FRASER, 2012 University of Montana journalism graduate: It’s that time of year when young journalists wrap up their college degrees and pray for a job. I know many parents and friends wonder why we stuck with a degree that most sane people know doesn’t guarantee a stable income, if one at all. At my graduation ceremony Saturday, two of my fellow University of Montana graduates put it all in perspective in their commencement speeches. Here’s the link to photo and video journalist Nick Gast’s funny “open letter” to graduates as filmed by parents. Below is the text of the speech from Victoria Edwards, a go-getter news reporter and editor.
There are some parents who don’t want to be here right now. I mean, they want to be at your graduation, just not THIS graduation.
They probably wish they were over at the Pharmacy department, like my parents do. Others might prefer biology, business, sociology…anything but journalism.
But I’m here to tell you your child made the right choice in becoming a journalist. Although in a year when a newspaper reporter was ranked as the fifth worst job — right ahead of an oil rig worker, enlisted soldier, and dairy farmer — it can be hard to understand why./CONTINUES
Yes, it’s true we’ll make around $20,000 a year our first, say ten years, in the business. Getting a “reaction” to your story will consist of an online commenter calling you a communist. You might even be called elitist by a politician, even though you haven’t eaten a meal without “a-roni” in the name in three weeks.
This makes me think back to why I first declared journalism as my major. In all honesty, I was naive and thought it sounded cool. Maybe some of you thought you’d get into some concerts for free or meet celebrities. Others came in to this school wanting be like Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
It’s a different reason for each one of us, but it’s something you should think of every once in a while. Maybe when your rent check bounces, or when all your friends are buying new cars and you’re still driving that hand-me-down your parents gave you in high school.
If you haven’t noticed by now, my humor is self-deprecating. When I talk with my classmates about our careers, it’s often with the same tone. We know there are fewer jobs in journalism and an increasing number of layoffs. That’s on top of the stress of constant deadlines and unreturned phone calls
Even grown up journalists, you know people that are getting paid $40,000 a year, have this humor. And by mixing two parts depression, four parts alcohol and one part Tumblr — they have given us the gift of websites like Party Like a Journalist and Overheard in the Newsroom, so we can feel better about not having had three meals in two years.
Reporter 1: “You smell like whiskey and cigarettes.”
Reporter 2: “That was my dinner last night.”
I always want to end my stories with “and then the reporter went home and drank herself into a stupor”
Affirm to me that there are others suffering for this so-called dying art.
And now, I know your parents would rather be at the English department graduation.
But the reason I think my classmates and I downplay what we do, is because if we didn’t, our egos would become too big.
I’m not an idealist when it comes to journalism or anything else, but we write stories that bring people to tears. Stories that introduce readers to people, ideas and places they would never know without us. We write stories that expose corruption and spark change.
I’d like to read you a sort of resume for journalism now. This list of accomplishments was put together by a professor of journalism at the University of Arkansas in a column titled “Yo Newt, that press you assail is actually pretty exceptional.”
“The press can take some credit for airing the ills of slavery, unseating Boss Tweed, holding Standard Oil accountable for a cruel and illegal vertical monopoly, documenting the full and horrific effects of radioactive poisoning after Hiroshima, exposing the My Lai massacre, removing a corrupt president from office, showing the world the torture at Abu Ghraib and exposing warrantless wiretapping by the NSA.”
So congratulations graduates! You won’t be making much in the way of money, although if that’s why you got into journalism, you really should have read that story on the worst jobs. But what you will be doing is ensuring people are informed and those in power are held accountable. And I don’t know about you, but I’m OK with eating Ramen and driving a beater around for the next ten years knowing that’s my job.