Columbia Application: Essay B

Columbia Application: Essay B

What led you to your interest in journalism?  What experience, if any, do you have in journalism?  What do you hope to gain through your work at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism?

My academic and career background until now has focused on international relations, particularly international development. Throughout my studies, I was inundated with hundreds of pages of assigned readings for classes as well as for research. Initially, I assumed that all of the reading I was expected to complete was written by academics, people with PhDs and fellowships at prestigious institutes. They had dedicated their lives to knowing as much as possible about these subjects and only they could speak or write over these areas. However, the more I read and researched, the more I realized that a large part of the relevant material my schoolwork required came from the media. Slowly, I began to understand how the fields of academia and media overlap quite significantly, and it is near impossible for one to exist without the other. Academicians thoroughly explore an area but must share their findings with the public in order to gain any sort of prestige and leverage for their arguments. Those in the media must constantly find new stories to report and often turn to researchers for leads. The dependence of these two fields of knowledge gave me a better appreciation for journalists, who must be current on a variety of issues in order to write solid, well-informed pieces. I am now interested in pursuing a degree in journalism to learn how to synthesize information and communicate it effectively using the research skills and understanding of global affairs that I currently have.

Although my previous training has not been in journalism, I have sought to incorporate innovative perspectives into my past academic writings. For a class about social movements, I compared the deployment of identity in the American LGBTQ movement with the modern Kurdish nationalist movement in Turkey. In a term paper, I discussed how the German colony of South West Africa was a testing site for policies, such as concentration camps, that would be used decades later in the Third Reich under the Nazi regime. This juxtaposition of two seemingly unrelated topics can produce a new vantage point for readers and help them make better-informed decisions about themselves and their surroundings. Through Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, I hope to acquire stronger writing skills as well as the resources necessary to refine ideas such as these and pursue them professionally.

My reason for pursuing a graduate degree in journalism now is to build on my background in international relations and prepare for a career in international news correspondence. A topic that I would like to focus my research on while in graduate school is the effectiveness of international development and aid programs. After working in this field for several years, I now have a more complete understanding of aid but am not convinced that it is completely effective or necessary. To report on this area, I would combine hard data, such as statistics from monitoring and evaluation reports, with soft data that could possibly include the psychological consequences for both sides of the donor-recipient relationship. I think that my cultural sensitivity and language skills in conjunction with Columbia’s rigorous program, location in the media capital of the world, and first-class career services would allow me to use this degree to refine my career path and be successful in the field of international journalism.


-Peter Jones