Indiana Daily Student

OPINION: The IDS taught me important lessons classes did not

During my sophomore year winter break, I was scrolling through a list of extracurriculars to start in the new semester. I checked everything from intramural sports to a capella groups, and nothing was piquing my interest.

That was until my friend sent me a link to apply as a writer for the Indiana Daily Student. I toiled around with the idea, questioning my writing skills and competence in covering important topics, and reluctantly submitted my application.

Two days later, I started the orientation process.

A year and 22 columns later, I feel lucky to have learned valuable lessons and formed heartwarming memories. Each has given me invaluable tools to take into my professional life.

Extracurriculars are some of the most important experiences in your college career. They can teach you invaluable lessons. Anything from team sports to community service can give you skills, like complex problem solving, time management and sportsmanship, that aren’t taught in the classroom, not to mention fond memories you’ll have for years to come.

The first memory I have of the IDS was the orientation process or “general assignments" as we call it. It was there that I understood how important ethics and integrity are to journalism, regardless of for which desk you write. 

“Seek truth and report it” from the Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics rings in my head every time I start to write something. For reporters, remaining impartial and reporting situations objectively is integral to covering things like breaking news.

That phrase was also how I knew I wasn't cut out to be a hard news reporter. 

I started my process on the arts desk, and I received constant feedback that my stories couldn't intersect with my personal life. How was I supposed to see a situation objectively and not let my personal opinion interfere with my writing? I was too opinionated and too stubborn to be truly objective.

So, my editor recommended I move to the opinion desk where I could choose to cover stories and develop theses to advocate for specific points of view. That was the perfect fit for me.

Through this process, I learned that you have to be true to your passions and ambitions no matter what. I could have continued writing for a different desk, remaining impartial and objective. But I chose to follow what was inspiring to me and would motivate me to write week after week.

Covering everything from fake news to getting sick care at IU, I had endless topics to write about in my first year. I realized how important structure is to any writing process. Cycles of pitching, editing and fact-checking kept me accountable to have my columns well-researched and effectively argued, all by a deadline.

My editors taught me timeliness and factuality were essential but reminded me not to sacrifice my authenticity. I was encouraged to write articles that questioned the status quo and was always reminded of student journalism's effect on societal change. We see this especially with our coverage of the graduate student strike. Without our voice, the stories of graduate workers would not be mainstream.

I also learned that regardless of what other people say, your opinion is your opinion. I've received an equal split of hate and praise for my columns, but I've also gained the ability to stand firm in my beliefs. As long as I have a compelling argument, my opinion is worth just as much as anyone else's.

I am so grateful that I chose an extracurricular that taught me as much as the IDS has. I encourage everyone to take the time to find a similar activity that will help them in their professional future. Not all of them will teach you how to eliminate the Oxford comma from your writing style — AP style is still the bane of my existence — but many will equip you with the extra knowledge you need to succeed. 

I am grateful for each of my editors, management teams and columnists I've worked alongside. You are all inspiring and wonderful people. And to each of you who have read my columns, thank you.

Chris Sciortino (he/him) is a junior studying theater and public relations. He is involved with the Queer Student Union and College Democrats at IU.

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