Blogging toward a career
The New York Times ran an interesting article recently about transitioning college students into careers: “Even before they arrive on campus, students—and their parents—are increasingly focused on what comes after college. What’s the return on investment, especially as the cost of that investment keeps rising? How will that major translate into a job?” One important area where universities can train students for careers is writing. With the advent of blogs and other self-publication outlets, it has become increasingly important for students to know how to both write well and transition their writing into the public domain. When I arrived at San Francisco State University, I knew that I needed to acquire writing as a skill for both graduate school and a potential career in academia.
Unfortunately, publicizing my writing turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated. As an English major, I expected to find many different outlets for publication. Aside from the selective and esoteric creative writing journals on campus (Fourteen Hills and Transfer), not many options were available. So, I turned to journalism. However, my articles were rejected many times—not because my writing was bad, but because I was not a journalism major. Fifteen articles later, annoyed by my unrelenting persistence, the editor finally submitted one of my articles for publication.
I quickly found out that my cumbersome trek toward publication was fairly common. Departments without publication options severely limit the ability of students to publish their work. Moreover, I discovered that publishing outside of my department is a bureaucratic obstacle course. If I had not been as persistent in my submissions, the newspaper might not have eventually published my writing, simply because I had not taken certain journalism classes.
At this point, I was convinced that there must be a way to both retain the quality of collegiate publications and give students from all departments an opportunity to write for a publication. Immediately, I realized what had been missing from the newspaper: a blog! On a whim, I walked into the publication room and introduced myself to first person I saw. He happened to be the faculty advisor for the online publications with the newspaper—what luck! I spent the next few months slowly warming him up to the idea. Big projects don’t happen over night; it took many conversations before he was sold. The online advisor had me write up a formula proposal, outlining the features, benefits and costs of adding a blog to the journalism department’s Web site to present to the rest of the faculty.
Having convinced the journalism department, I immediately began the work designing the site with a friend. Next, I began advertising for contributors, using the slogan: “a blog for anyone to talk about anything.” My primitive advertising tactics attracted a diverse group of bloggers. We have been posting for about four months now and have outpaced the university newspaper’s Web site in the number of hits.
In conceiving this project and carrying it to maturity, I have learned some valuable lessons. First, I learned the difference between coming up with an interesting idea and pushing it toward fruition. In college, people develop ambitions, dreams and goals, but unless you are willing to put in the time and effort, those ideas will fade and dissipate. Especially in a college environment, one needs patience and resolve to overcome the entrenched bureaucracy—particularly in my case at a state-funded university. Second, I learned that I must be flexible with my ideas. Coming into this project, I had a particular vision for it. But as I involved more people and more perspectives, I understood that the vision must be fluid and adaptable. In the end, I opened a new door for college student-driven publication, but also, I learned some real-world lessons that I can carry over into my future career.
San Francisco, CA
The author is a history major at San Francisco State University and active member of the school’s speech and debate team. He is the founding editor of The [X]press Blog, a university-wide student-run blog operated through the journalism department.