Although this is my sixth year studying journalism, my journey into the media industry took its time to develop. It started with my interest and skill in creative writing in elementary and middle school. I would write my heart out and loved dissecting the meaning of whatever book my teachers assigned.
For whatever reason, I never thought much of that skill at the time. I guess I was busy with sports and just being a kid.
My senior year of high school is when I got a real taste of the career that I now want to be a part of. That year, I was participating in an academy that taught us different skills that could get us into the sports workforce. Our program was tasked with helping the athletic director run the school’s sports page. Responsibilities ranged from writing game recaps, taking pictures at games, interviewing various student athletes and updating teams’ schedules and records.
That class was a highlight for me that year, and yet I still didn’t get that this was what I was supposed to do. After graduating, I enrolled in community college and chose business as my major.
I figured I would use this education to get into the sports business, but I quickly learned I could not commit to learning the amount of math required for a business major. I started stressing about the mistake I’d made in choosing a major and felt the uncertainty of starting at square one again.
One day, I visited a counselor to see what my possible next steps could be. Out of nowhere, journalism came to my mind, and I remembered how many teachers told me I was a good writer. As luck would have it, there was an introduction-to-journalism course held at the same time as the business class I was in the midst of dropping. “This has to be a sign,” I thought.
The following day, I sat in on that class. I explained my situation to the professor, who kindly let me officially enroll in the course. During her lecture, it hit me. Deep inside, I had peace in finally knowing that this was what I’m meant to do. I then spent the next two-and-a-half years writing for the college’s digital newspaper, working on a YouTube show and producing my own podcast.
After I graduated, I transferred to a four-year college, and it was full steam ahead. Once I joined my college’s newspaper, I strove to produce as much work as possible to work on my craft. This hard work paid off as I am now the news section editor for my newspaper.
While I am in a good place before graduating in the spring, this journey has opened up my eyes about the current state of journalism. When I was applying for an internship in the field, a common response I received was, “Need more experience, but you’re on the right track.” “Strange,” I thought. Isn’t the internship part of the antidote to gaining experience?
Other early disappointments have included the stumbling blocks I’ve run into when doing research for an article or project and attempting to gather sources. Often, when trying to access an article, I’m faced with a paywall. I know news outlets are businesses, but paying to access news online doesn’t seem right, especially if journalism is the profession to serve the people.
When it comes to social causes and politics — and sometimes even in the sports world — it seems that many of today’s journalists have already taken sides. They produce work for whomever their allegiance is to and push their talking points. And even when a journalist simply reports the news objectively, the audience is quick to bash and accuse the journalist of being on the left or right.
While I am still on the outside looking in, I can see that this world I want a career in can be brutal and tough to navigate, but I still have some hope. So far, I’ve had many mentors, peers and professors who have shown me that it isn’t all bad. There can be some positive change.
Luke Perez is a senior at Azusa Pacific University, an editor for his campus newspaper, and a recent editorial intern at L.A. Parent.