Justina Sharp

Journalism Is My Passion. So Why Was I Scared To Major In It?

I've been writing on the Internet since I was 13. But college made me question whether I was actually good at it.

“So you want to be a journalist?”

The question comes from the guy sitting next to me in my second journalism class of the day. It’s the first day of Intro to Newswriting, and as I haven’t got it tattooed on my forehead, he has no idea that I’ve been writing since I was 13, landing my name in bylines at The Huffington Post, the New York Times, and here at MTV News. He doesn’t know about what my friends call “the Kylie incident," or that I was once on the Today show for writing an article defending Barbie. As far as he knows, I’m just the girl who happened to sit next to him on the first day of the spring semester.

“Three semesters on the school newspaper? Am I reading this right?” I had asked my mom a few weeks before. Three semesters of “College Media Production" required to graduate.

It seems laughable to me now that it took nearly a year of “finding my passions” to decide to major in journalism. It’s just so … obvious. It’s like an actor majoring in theater arts. Writing is what I do, although when looking at the degree requirements, I started to question if I couldn’t do something else. Maybe yoga? Nothing will make you question everything you love quite like college.

Believe it or not, this idea of going to school to actually study the thing I liked to think I did so well was even scarier than the idea of having to take any kind of math again. I was terrified of these people I’d never met -- these student journalists at our award-winning college paper. More than that, I was scared that when it came down to it, I wasn’t going to be able to do it. I’d spent years developing my writing style alone -- on the Internet -- and had an overwhelming suspicion that it wasn’t going to be right. I used too many pop culture references and too little AP Stylebook. In fact, I didn’t even own an AP Stylebook. It felt like I was stripping myself of everything I thought I knew in order to pursue a piece of paper certifying that I knew it. (Read that one slowly.)

Eventually, the first day of my first semester on The Current came, and with it, an epiphany. This physical situation was new for me, but for most of the people in that newsroom, this was their absolute starting point. They didn’t all know whether this was what they really wanted, and beyond that, there are so many out there who’ll never have the opportunity to find out. At my school, young journalists are getting started in the liberal arts building with an editor-in-chief whose socks don’t match and with fantastic spinning chairs. But out in the bigger world, there are kids who don’t even get to go to school. Their opportunities to have their voices heard are limited, and their chances of reaching an audience are even slimmer. After all the time I spent worrying about how this would challenge me, I’ve realized how incredibly lucky I am to have the option -- and I’m taking full advantage of it.

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