10 reasons why I totally respect the 'Missouri Method', now more than ever
Updated: Feb 24
If you are a current student or alumna at one of the oldest formal journalism schools in the world (second only to the Ecole Supérieure de Journalisme de Paris) you are probably very familiar with the phrase "Missouri Method". In fact, just the mention of it might bring back memories ranging in categorization from pleasant to somewhat (entirely) traumatizing.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the phrase, the 'Missouri Method' refers to the unique curriculum provided to journalism students at MU that allows us to learn about journalism, both in a traditional classroom setting as well as through physical practice in a variety of real-world media landscapes. Essentially, it is what has shaped and continues to shape MU's journalism students into some of the most badass journalists in the world (See Elizabeth Vargas, John Anderson, Jim Lehrer, the list goes on...).
Being a Mizzou J-schooler means a LOT of hard work and late nights. It means frequently overdosing on caffeine and making it all the way to 8 p.m. before realizing you haven't had a bite of food.
It means swimming in parking tickets.
It means calling sources until your voice gives out or sending media request emails to every relevant contact you can get your hands on. It means 12-hour days in the Future's lab.
It means forgetting to *command S* every five seconds and, as a result, losing all of your work when Premier decides to stop working.
It means scouring through countless online newspaper sites until you find a story you think will be newsworthy enough to survive the Wednesday 8 a.m. pitch with Judd and Mark.
...and then it means story safaris.
But it also means being a student at one of the most elite (if not THE most elite) journalism programs in the world. It means seeing your original work in the local newspaper or on the 6 o'clock news. It means having an abundance of portfolio content by the end of your first two years, and continuing to build on it for the next two. It means being a member of the Mizzou Mafia and in turn, having your resume or reel placed right into the hands of some of the most successful and influential journalists in the industry.
It means being prepared for almost any situation, both inside and outside of the newsroom, which brings me to the main focal point of this post: how my education at the Missouri School of Journalism has helped me in every aspect of my job this summer.
If you have been keeping up with me here or on Instagram, then you know I am currently living in Dublin, Ireland and interning at a small tech startup, Think Biosolution, as a content producer/writer. Having been here for almost six weeks now, I have had some time to reflect on my internship experience in its entirety, beginning with my acceptance at the start of this year and leading all the way up to my time spent in the office today. I've thought a lot about how my past experiences have played a role in my preparation for this unique and often daunting new one. While many people, places and things have contributed to my progress while abroad this summer, nothing has helped prepare me better than my education so far with the Missouri School of Journalism.
Coming up next I have identified a list of 10 reasons why I totally respect the 'Missouri Mehthod', and now more than ever. They are in no particular order and some reasons are (hopefully obviously) more significant than others.
So, what has the J-school taught me so far? And how have I applied this knowledge to my external summer internship?:
1. How to work on a deadline
This has been one of the most valuable skills I have obtained during my three years in the J-school. One class in particular, though, really helped me nail this skill (and too many others to name). Convergence Reporting showed me what it was like to work in a professional journalism setting, which obviously included strict deadlines for each story. If it wasn't in on time (and I mean if the deadline was 6 p.m. and you turned it in at 6:01 p.m.) you would receive a 0% on the assignment with no chance for redemption. My internship this summer does not have tight deadlines, but pretending that it does has allowed me to crank out multiple articles and is a skill that probably any employer would consider impressive.
2. To not be afraid to ask questions (and know the right way to do so)
Ever since I can remember I have struggled with my inherent shyness. The J-school, however, has helped me immensely in this capacity. As a result of several reporting classes wherein I have had to speak to countless strangers and really push the boundaries of my comfort zone, I have become a noticeably better communicator inside and outside of a professional setting. This skill has helped me enormously at the handful of networking events I have attended this summer. I have realized that curiosity may be the greatest tool a journalist (or person) can have. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it's gotten me a lot of LinkedIn connections...
3. How to become an expert on an unfamiliar topic, in a short period of time
This summer I have had to completely dive into the tech and biomedical engineering industries; two worlds I was entirely unfamiliar with six weeks ago but like to think I have a decent grasp on by now. As a student reporter at MU, I have had to become an expert in a variety of vastly different and random topics such as the market for caged eggs, childcare in rural Missouri and swing dancing, to name only a few. Knowing how to do quality, in-depth research has been one of the greatest aids during this internship.
4. How to understand complicated data sets
Somewhat redundant to the last point, but data analysis is another huge part of my internship at Think Bio, and the J-School certainly fine-tuned me for this.
5. Pitch forms!
If you know, you know. If you don't, you should.
6. How to work with other, perhaps not-so-likeminded people
Teamwork is a huge component of any journalism specialization. I am constantly turning to my classmates to help build my story and make it as all-encompassing as possible. If I have any question, whether it be about the reporting, editing or production, I know at least one of my classmates has the answer. And this has been no different at my internship. The other two interns I work with are biomedical engineering students and vastly different skills than I do. We have learned to strategically utilize each other's specific knowledge of different topics in order to produce the highest quality work.
7. How to accept and apply criticism appropriately
Accepting feedback in any form is something I still struggle with even as a rising senior. I am stubborn and don't like to be told I am wrong, but I have noticed recently that criticism is a part of life and how you choose to deal with it can make or break you. In many of my journalism classes I have been exposed to intense and sometimes harsh criticism, all of which I have had to accept with a smile. Practice makes perfect and I have definitely grown better at this over time. Knowing how to appropriately accept and apply feedback has helped me substantially in my writing this summer and has allowed me to soak up extensive knowledge.
8. How to create quality, publishable work
At the best journalism school in the world, the highest quality of work is expected. Most of our projects are turned in to the professors with the hopes of them eventually being turned in to the newsroom director for publication. When the best is expected of you, you have to give every last effort to try to meet those expectations.
9. How to tailor writing to a specific audience
Knowing your audience is essential. Whether you are producing a story on Uber and how it has affected the taxi industry or writing a business white paper about the wearable technology market, knowing your audience will directly contribute to the success of your work.
10. Journalism library resources!
God bless Ebsco Host! Enough said.
And there are so many additional reasons, you guys! In this case, the list really could go on forever.
My main point is that the Missouri School of Journalism is so much more than an academic program; it is career and life preparation and the means to really succeed in life. If you are one of my fellow J-schoolers, I think we all would benefit from taking a moment to reflect on what this school means to us and how it has guided us and shaped us into the journalists and people we are today.
"Wise shall be the bearers of the light"