Degree/Year: Philosophy, 2016
Employer name: The Detroit News
Position/Title: Reporter, State Government and Politics
City/State: Lansing, Michigan
I help cover politics and state government in the Lansing Bureau with two other permanent reporters. The past few months I’ve written about important legislation as it went through the various stages in the legislative process and helped with election coverage, both by writing articles about presidential candidates’ campaign speeches and other state House races, among other things. You can find my stories here: detroitnews.com/staff/10052100/michael-gerstein/ Before that I covered politics and state government for five months in Lansing for The Associated Press; my stories were published across the country, and you can find some of those here: bigstory.ap.org/journalist/michael-gerstein
I got my most relevant experience by simply writing for various publications while I was in school. I learned by doing it. But I do think that philosophy turned out to be an excellent general education for a journalist—or for any profession that involves critical thinking, for that matter—because it trains you to analyze, break down arguments, be critical and skeptical of authoritative sources without taking anyone’s word at face value. That’s the kind of attitude that makes a good journalist. In journalism there’s an old saying, “If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.” Philosophers are skeptical. And they’re the sharpest people you’ll ever meet.
Major in something that gives you insight into what interests you.
Major in something that gives you insight into what interests you. So if you’d like to do politics, major in political science or a related field. Or if you know you want to be an environmental journalist, major in environmental science, study environmental policy and learn about entomology, even. Get your journalism experience by penning articles at campus publications, The State News or by pitching story ideas to local papers. And try to intern at places around Lansing, like MIRS News or Gongwer for would-be political journalists. And if you don’t know what you’d like to cover yet, you can’t go wrong with a traditional liberal arts major like philosophy, history or English, e.g., coupled with actual, practical experience. And don’t be afraid to ask professors to get into journalism classes that interest you (or others) even if it’s not your major and you don’t have any of the prerequisite classes completed. I got into Eric Freedman’s (Pulitzer prize winner) excellent class, the Capital News Service, without being a journalism major and having only taken one 100-level JRN class and Freedman’s class is where I learned to write newspaper articles. He was the best (and harshest) editor I ever had. Also: If you don’t know what you’d like to do in general, don’t fret. I still don’t know that either