Journalism, Ohio University

Normal is boring

My 17-year old self outside of Scripps Hall.

The longer I go to school, the more I realize that I am not an academic. I am not someone who is interested in learning for learning’s sake.

Throughout high school, I always said that I was better off by learning most of my lessons outside of the classroom. At the time, that was a way for me to steer clear of the doldrums of the classroom. A cop-out, if you will.

Really, though, it was spot on.

Since I’ve been here at school, I’ve spent enough hours in cold, uninteresting classrooms to drive me a little bonkers. And I can’t start complaining now because I have three and a half more years of doing just that.

Through all the lectures and powerpoint presentations, documents and out-of-class readings, I have learned a lot of stuff, sure. But where the real learning begins is after that stuff is done.

Let me rephrase that — any time where that stuff is not being done.

I spend 17 hours per week in a classroom and probably another 17 on school-related work. Why would I move to the Southeast corner of Ohio to learn stuff for only 34 hours per week?

That doesn’t make sense.

I moved here to experience everything else.

People ask me all the time if I’m scared to enter my chosen field once my four years are up here in Athens. The obvious answer is no — I’m confident that by the time I graduate I will be well equipped to take the next step in my life.

That’s only on the surface, though. Of course I’m confident. I have to be, or else the first “no” I ever received would have sent me packing straight to a desk job. On a deeper level, of course I’m a little intimidated. I’m training myself to do something that some believe won’t exist in a couple of years.

Maybe it’s what sets us apart as journalists — the unknown and whatnot. I think that I can speak for the majority when I say many of us are pushed to be journalists by our natural curiosity. That and a love for language and people.

I have always ensured those that question my career path that in some way, shape or form, the world will always need someone to write. Someone to tell stories. To be the public’s voice.

The people don’t only want a voice, they want the whole picture.

To a “print guy”, that can be a little rough sounding. If I can’t tell it in a story, it can’t grace the newsprint — at least that’s the traditional man’s thinking.

To be honest, I think normal is boring. Not that I’m your ever-so-mainstream hipster dude or anything.

The world is catering to those who are willing to step outside the box and do their own thing. Those who don’t ask why — ask why not.

Why can’t journalists be innovative? Why can’t we be the ones who make moves instead of react to them?

That being said, there’s no point in doing new things for the sake of doing them. There’s no use in putting up content that adds little — or detracts from — the overall coverage. A poorly produced video or podcast does nothing for the publication except make viewers wonder why a professional couldn’t bother to take the time to do it right. It goes back to the fundamental quality against quantity debate.

I’ve always been an advocate of quality, pretty much across the board.

I came to Ohio University because of the journalism school. I could have gone to a good state institution somewhere in the confines of my home mitten, er, state.

I’m glad I made the choice to come here, but I’m glad for different reasons than I had anticipated.

Aside from the fantastic views I take in on the way to Bentley Hall* every day and the generally good vibe I get from this small town, what drew me to Ohio was what one professor claimed he couldn’t do.

*It just so happens that each of my classes is in Bentley Hall this quarter. More specifically, my three main classes are directly across the hall from one another, meaning that once I start up my first class of the day, I don’t move more than 20 steps or so for the remainder of the morning.

What that professor said that he couldn’t do was make me into anything. He said that the school alone would not give me the resources I need to excel as a journalist. That books and papers wouldn’t be the key to my academic experience.

What he did say was that the students at Ohio are some of the most talented in the country. He told 17-year old me that, in other words, I didn’t have a clue what I was getting myself into.

And he was right. I still don’t — it’s my natural curiosity.

With that in mind, I don’t feel like my lack of super-academic ambition is a chief concern. I’m getting tools that I need to succeed, yes. But aside from general stuff, will any of those things be applicable in 10 years?

In principle, yes. In practicality, the answer has yet to be determined.

So, while my friends slave away with their accounting and astronomy, I’ll do the same, if only because that’s what good students do. Being a good student is still a priority to me.

But there has to be a reason why my camera, computer, notepads and recorder fit into my backpack in a particular order, while I have to cram my textbooks into the empty spaces.

It’s not a cop-out anymore. It’s a lifestyle.

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My name is Jim Ryan, and I'm a breaking news reporter for The Oregonian and OregonLive in Portland. I'm an Ohio University graduate from Gaylord, Michigan.

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