It doesn’t take a journalism major to write for the student newspaper. In fact, if you ask me, the best student-run publications are those that feature all makes and models of students on campus, from the creative writing wordsmiths to the calculator-toting math majors.

Too often, though, the stigma attached to college-level writing — the result of torturous term papers and endless essays — prevents would-be reporters and columnists from giving the student press a chance. In the newsroom, writing can be fun, thrilling, and, dare I say, rewarding. Here’s a sampling of what you get to do at your student newspaper:

RelatedThe Importance of Reading Your School Newspaper

Build Social Skills

Writing for the student newspaper pushes you hard to take chances and venture outside your social comfort zone. As a reporter, you’ll develop the mettle it takes to sit down with complete strangers for interviews and turn them into reliable sources of information who you can depend on for years to come.

As an opinion columnist, you’ll be challenged to consider the views of those whose perspectives differ from your own. Even for lighter pieces like man-on-the-street questionnaires, you’ll find yourself striking up conversations with students you’ve never met to get their two cents on the issue at hand. Daunting? Yeah. Doable? You better believe it.

Enact Meaningful Change

On the news recently, it was revealed that the University of Alabama‘s Greek system maintained a longstanding code of racial discrimination that barred black students from joining its sororities. You probably first heard of this revelation on a major news outlet like CNN or the Associated Press, but what you may not have known is that it was U of A’s student newspaper, The Crimson White, that first broke the story.

More importantly, it was the White that made such an exposé possible by arranging and publicizing dozens of interviews with sources close to the matter. Without this kind of boots-on-the-ground investigative reporting, there simply would have been no executive order from the university president to put an end to such a backward policy. Way to go, Crimson White, and way to go, student newspapers.

Hone Time Management Skills

Although the term “deadline” has its morbid roots in Civil War-era prisoner camps, the deadline of the caffeine-driven all-nighter that we know of today first originated in the newsroom. Miss a deadline at the paper and your story is toast.

That may sound frightening, but the prospect of seeing your hard work go to waste — rather than just costing you a few points as it might in your sociology course — conditions you to be punctual with your work and efficient with your time like nothing else can.

Become a Better Writer

If you plan on landing that ever-elusive job in your field of study after graduation, it’s paramount that you build your writing skills. The ability to forcefully and cogently express ideas through the written word remains one of the most sought-after qualities that employers of all vocations look for in their applicants.

You’ll find yourself cultivating this commodity when you join the staff of your student newspaper, since you’ll be tasked with writing stories that are captivating and informative for a real-world audience  – not just your professor. It is no coincidence that some of the greatest writers and thinkers of our time — Mark Twain, Hunter S. Thompson, and Winston Churchill, to name a few — got their start in journalism.

If your student newspaper isn’t enough, considering joining the HackCollege team.


Image: Surat Lozowick