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decisions, decisions
the ins, outs, ups, and downs of j-school
by adam kraemer (@DryWryBred)

Okay, I guess since this is my first foray into Intrepid Media, and since the topic seems to be writing, and since I'm currently getting my Masters in Journalism at NYU, and since I only have 40 minutes ‘till I miss the deadline on this, I figure I can use this opportunity to explain the plusses and minuses of being in my current position (other than the unbelievable opportunity to write huge run-on sentences).

Grad school kicks ass. It really does. I don't know if this is true for people getting a combined doctorate in biophysics and law, but I'm having a great time. I get free electricity, free room and board, and free laundry (for a dollar a load). And it only costs me $50,000 after I graduate. How's that for a great plan? And, if I play my cards right, I might be able to stay in school forever, and then I'll never have to pay my loans. That Sallie Mae chick doesn't need my money anyway.

I'm learning how to write, or at least learning which writing styles I'm good at and which ones kind of leave me lacking (I'll let you decide for yourselves which one this is). The "news lede" is one that I've never been fond of. "A 66-year-old Queens man was arrested yesterday for breaking twelve laws and four world records, according to a random passerby." Eeew. I prefer, "So, imagine you have $2000, an unlimited number of sheep, and twelve hours." This is why I'm in the magazine concentration.

I want to write for Rolling Stone Magazine. Actually, I want to edit for Rolling Stone. One way or another, listening to music, seeing movies, and watching TV can be considered homework. Or at least they would if I used them for anything.

I'm also a big fan of vacation. During my time away from school, I worked at Harvard. They also have vacations at Harvard, but, as I learned the hard way, they're only for the students. Now that I'm a student, I get vacation again. And now that I'm an ex-university employee, I have no qualms about pointing at the support staff and openly laughing. I wonder where my transcript is...

Another thing that grad school has over regular college is that the lowest grade is something like a C-. It's not good enough to graduate, but it means that if you actually attempt to consider trying to do work, you get a B+. I'm a big fan of the B+. I've discovered that a steady supply of B+'s, combined with a moderate supply of kissing my professors' collective ass has been good enough to earn me a 3.9. Really. I don't ask, and they don't retaliate.

But I digress.

A little bit about classes in journalism – no tests. Lots of writing, but no tests. I mean, what are you going to do – "There was a robbery at 5th and 11th. You have an hour. Begin!" Not gonna do it. So, bottom line, there's very little studying. Yippee.

Not that it's all wine and roses (more like whine and roaches); there are some drawbacks to being in j-school in one's mid-to-late 20s.

First of all, you're basically taking classes taught by people who have decided to write for a living. In other words, they're not full-time professors, in many cases, and they're definitely not getting that weather girl position any time soon. One of my professors recently disagreed with that assessment, saying, "If you write well, you can speak decent. Maybe not wonderfully, but good enough." Thank you for playing, Professor; we have some wonderful parting gifts for you.

Secondly, and you'll find this in any graduate school, the undergrads are definitely having more fun. Period. I haven't deliberately cut a class since I've been here. That, and I just realized today that this year's freshmen are, at best, seven years younger than I am. Woah. Of course, I don't have to hang out outside the Drink n' Puke hoping a bum will be kind enough to buy me a forty of St. Ides for a 60% tip.

Third, and most importantly, I'm working full-time and going to school full-time. I literally videotape at least nine hours of television a week so I can watch it when I get home from class. I can't sleep late, and I don't get to eat dinner before 8:30. It's worse than the time an old guy offered to pay me $5 to pull down my pants in the playground. At least that was over in two minutes and I didn't have to pay taxes. (Just kidding. I actually said no, ran home, and my mom called the police. Let this be a lesson to you kiddies.) Anyway, the point is, I've been happier.

And I guess the last thing to remember about j-school is that no matter how well you do in class (3.9, really), and no matter how cool it is to get an advanced degree, it really doesn't matter in the real world if you still can't get the job you want. I was recently offered an unpaid internship at P.O.V. magazine and I had to turn it down because I decided in the short-term eating regularly was more important than my future. Zero dollars a week does not go a long way in New York.

So the question, I guess, is did I make the right decision, and is Journalism school something an aspiring writer should pursue? (I never knew if sentences like that should end in periods or question marks.) Well, I don't regret my choice to get my degree. And I don't regret the immense amount of debt I've accumulated (yet). On the other hand, I could write like this before I got into NYU (it's probably got a lot to do with why I got into NYU). The truth is, I don't know yet.

But I do know this: it seems to make my parents proud, God bless ‘em.


A native of Elkins Park, PA, Adam Kraemer spends way too much of his time repeating "K-R-A-E..." He moved to New York City in 1998 and earned Master's in Journalism at NYU; don't let his writing fool you. He feels he is best known for saying the things no one is thinking, but afterwards wish they had been. He spends his free time wondering where all his free time goes and why he can never come up with a decent kicker for the ends of his articles.

more about adam kraemer


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