An Opinion of YSU Journalism

By Tyler McVicker

When starting this report, I had a bit of an axe to grind with YSU’s Journalism department, and school in general. Although time has taught me that this is never a way to go into a story, I unfortunately still was quite bitter. Personally, I have not had a great history with school.

My high school experiences went between arguing with the teachers and never doing much with other people, and my early years in college have consisted of wandering aimlessly in a major I did not enjoy. Now I find myself in journalism at Youngstown State University, and I again find myself butting heads with many of those around me.

I spent the last few weeks interviewing other Journalism majors to try to find if anyone had similar opinions or to find out if there were other ways students try to improve their experience at YSU. Unfortunately, an issue started to appear fairly quickly. After a few interviews, I found that most students were answering the questions in nearly identical ways.

“The program exceeded my expectations so far and has made me more prepared in this point of my college career than I expected to be… My first experience was my imaging and design of news class with Dave [Davis] and I just really enjoyed being able to use a camera for my assignments and have open discussion in class about the things that actually interest me.” Alyssa Weston, Freshmen YSU journalism student said.

“I think it could be great if I can study journalism in the big city where there are big diverse communities,” said Nami Nagaoka, an international Journalism student “I love studying journalism at YSU. Since it has a diverse community, I have learned a lot of things as writing.”

Nagaoka is an interesting case as she seems to have the most effort put into her stay at YSU. Being from Japan, she not only had to upend her life and culture, but she is learning a new profession at the same time she learned more about the language it was taught in. I point this out because from the perspective of my interviews, Nagaoka is an outlier.

“I picked YSU because it is close to where I live so I wouldn’t have to pay extra to live on campus and the tuition is reasonable. I also heard that YSU has a pretty good journalism program,” Brianna Gleghorn, freshman journalism student, said.

Let’s take a step back for a moment, as something needs to be pointed out. The fact that YSU is, compared to any other major university, cheaper, came up in almost every interview conducted.

A point that didn’t come up very frequently, however, is a passion for reporting information, getting news to the general public or changing the industry in any meaningful way. Almost everyone interviewed loves it at YSU because it is cheap and close, but not necessarily because of the quality of the journalism program or due to any real passion for the program itself.

“I’ve been coming to YSU for different activities since elementary school so I was pretty used to campus by the time I started classes,” Gleghorn said.

“I just started this fall so I haven’t really gotten to be in the program for that long. So far the program, and the people in it, are great.”

“I joined the program because I was in the STEM program and couldn’t deal with math. I also like writing stories so I figure writing about true events could be just as neat,” Ian Frantz, a third year student at YSU, said.

Journalism at YSU is one of the few programs that do not require any upper division math courses, without making assumptions, this fact alone could cause some conversation.

“There is nothing I would change. I’m sure there could be improvements, but I can’t think of any major issues that need addressed,” Frantz said.

Even for the students who are further along in the program, they said that there are no major issues they want to be fixed, and nothing major they believe needs to change. In all of the interviews conducted, it was clear that the majority of people in the journalism program are fine with how things are handled.

An interesting anecdote, my mother has a master’s degree in journalism. Throughout my childhood, she told me that she chose that major for one reason: math was not a requirement.

While talking with so many of these students, I rarely got the impression that a passion for reporting information to the general public was something they had. That is not to say there are not students in the program who truly love reporting, it just seems there are a higher concentration of students just trying to get through their higher education experiences.

I started at YSU three years ago in the Computer Science and Information Systems Department. My original major consisted of math and programming and after my time with those classes, I learned that it is not for me.

During the time I spent with CSIS, I was writing on my own in a journalistic outlet I created myself, Valve News Network. For six years, I have run my own broadcast news venture on YouTube, and the experience has taught me a great deal. For one, it gave me the basic instruction needed in order to get information to the general public in a way anyone could understand, and two, it taught me that I truly love writing and reporting.

I had the idea to switch my major over early on in my college career. However, my barrier was my parents. Two years after I moved out, I finally made the switch.

Unfortunately, the experience I have had in this program is not what I expected, and this is where the root of my problem stems. It does not seem that anyone around me truly loves the idea of working incredibly hard on a story, giving it their all and taking a long time gathering sources.

It also does not seem that anyone is in this program due to the desire to get accurate and clearly stated information into as many brains as possible. It especially does not seem that any of the writers around me are here to be critiqued on anything they do, and are instead trying to get through with the bare minimum required for the degree we all need.

This is on top of the lustful obsession any writing program has with a “standard” for writing. MLA, AP, APA and Chicago are ‘biblical texts’ in school, and to those who wish to approach assignments creatively, this can be a fatal blow to morale.

I can’t tell you how heartbreaking it is to turn a paper into a the professor only to get it back with a grade of C or lower, not because the quality of reporting is poor, nor the word count or the visual counterparts, but because I forgot to spell out the numbers one through nine.

These are the problems I see with the program and if I were in charge, I would make an attempt to fix these issues. I feel that anyone who wishes to be truly invested in something should be capable of seeking out the flaws of that thing.

This is not the case for almost anyone I interviewed, and it gives me the impression that very few people choose this major due to a true interest, but to many other unrelated academic or personal reasons.