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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

I used to want to be a journalist. When I transferred to VCU from community college, I entered the university as a mass communications major with a concentration in digital journalism. The very first class that introduced me to the major was MASC 101 (Introduction to Mass Communications). The class was required of all Mass Comm majors, regardless of which concentration they pursued. MASC 101’s task was to initiate students into the Robertson School of Media and Culture and help them cultivate the mindset needed to engage with media studies.

Although I would eventually switch majors last-minute to study English, I did enjoy MASC 101. The class shed some valuable insight into our frenzied, insatiable media cycle. Not only did I have a great professor, but the course was also well-designed and set an important agenda: turn mass communications students into critical thinkers, encouraging them to frequently confront and question the different media they encounter. Our assignments challenged us to think analytically about the evolution of the media we consumed, the different methods news outlets employ to inform and persuade their audiences, the speed at which we devour and perceive media and so much more.

There is no doubting that journalism schools should produce well-rounded thinkers, ones who consider multiple perspectives and make calculated decisions about trust and credibility. When the schools provide a solid enough foundation before sending their students out to be employed in the media business, this sets the stage for reliable and versatile journalists.

However, there is one problem that has not been addressed through these classes: Why should media studies classes only be required for journalism students when nearly everyone absorbs media on a frequent basis?

Colleges choosing to only strengthen media literacy in those specifically studying it in their fields is an atrocious oversight. We cannot pretend that journalism students are the only ones who can benefit from it, not when online misinformation can create real-world catastrophe. Not when our ever-evolving technologies are meant to assist and unite us but can also be turned against us. To say that media literacy is only necessary for journalism students is to wean responsibility off the rest of us.

If colleges were to require a media studies class in every degree program, regardless of subject, this would be a strong and healthy reflection of how we have accepted technologies into our daily lives. Unlike the Introduction to Economics course I took where I retained very little (and enjoyed nothing), the content of a media studies course is unique because of its immense impact. This is one class that, if done well, should resonate with everyone because its subject matter is lived every day.

Colleges, take note.

Julia transferred to VCU from Northern Virginia Community College in 2020. She is majoring in English with a minor in professional writing and editing. She hopes to be a staff writer for a publication like Vox so she can get paid to watch bad movies and creatively dissect their cultural and political themes. Either that or open her own café where she can name all the sandwiches after classic rock songs.
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