When I first told my parents that I wanted to be a journalist, they thought I was crazy. At the time, newspapers were beginning to go up for sale or go out of business altogether, and many people considered journalism to be dead. My mom understood that writing was something that I loved to do, but couldn't fathom why I would want to go to school for a career that would be so difficult to succeed in. She thought I should be a p.r. person for a major company or a copy editor for aspiring novelists, but I said that wasn't what I wanted.
My father, who is a writer himself, worried that I would struggle to make ends meet, since it was a difficult process for him when he freelanced. I was stubborn, though. I vowed not only to get into journalism, but to write for a national publication.
Over the past few years, people have raised their eyebrows at me when I tell them what I want to do. Even reporters have told me to think about doing something else. But they're even more surprised when I say that I have no reservations about going into this field because it's not dying, merely changing.
Some newspapers and news organizations may be shutting down, but others are being created online. Papers that are geared toward a specific niche aren't taking much of a hit at all. Readers are looking for something different, and the publications that are mixing things up seem to retain their consumers. Whether that means incorporating new interactive multimedia into the mix, or spicing up the design on the front page, journalism is changing because it must.
But that doesn't mean that it's going away. In fact, it's obvious that people are hungrier for information than ever. We just have to figure out the best way to present that information to the public.
Maybe it's an overused defense, but when people try to tell me that newspapers will be obsolete in a few years, I simply bring up radio's continued existence. After color TV became a mass medium, many Americans thought the radio would begin to disappear, yet it remains in every automobile sold today. And while online news sites are becoming more prominent, newspapers will be around for as long as people want to hold physical paper in their hand— which, I think, will be forever.
I wouldn't exactly describe myself as an optimist, but I'm not worried about the future of journalism or my future in it. The changes just make me work harder. I know that I have to be even more competitive to get internships and be well-versed in many aspects of the field. But I believe I can do all these things because it's something I love to do, which means I won't settle for anything less.
Liz Sawyer, one of 11 high school students working with Time, Inc.'s Assignment Detroit project, has been chosen to give the commencement address to her high-school classmates at Waterford Kettering. She plans to attend Syracuse University in the fall.