Information for Prospective Majors and Minors
Welcome to the journalism department at Western Washington University. Included here is information to assist you in deciding whether journalism is the field you wish to study, as well as information to get you started in our department. Please explore all the links provided throughout this site. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!
What is Journalism?
"The role of a free press is to be the people's eyes and ears, providing not just information but access, insight, and most importantly, context."
-Jon Stewart, host, The Daily Show
Journalism is the work of supplying content, primarily news, for the ever-expanding world of mass media. Journalists are responsible for gathering information, analyzing and editing it for a mass audience, and dispensing it using some form of media platform. Increasingly the methods of distribution have become more complex, but the basic mission of a journalist remains the same: to serve the public by finding, defining, writing, and editing information.
Today's journalist may be found on traditional publications such as newspapers and magazines, broadcast outlets and specialized publications. They may utilize online delivery or other forms of electronic communication. The trained journalist may use their skills in the expanding field of public relations, working to serve as a bridge between those with a message to communicate and the journalist who seeks information.
Journalists "put content in the box," to paraphrase Edward R. Murrow. To the extent that they are successful, they can inform and influence a nation.
Why study Journalism?
Few fields of study prepare a young person for as wide a range of interesting and challenging careers. Journalists first and foremost learn to write, to accumulate and analyze information. This set of skills is in demand in a host of fields beyond traditional mass media.
The study of journalism exposes a student to current affairs and problems, from issues of campus governance to international news and concerns. Journalism students are expected to question, challenge sources of information, and seek a variety of data and opinions on any serious issue. These skills are useful in many interesting professions as well as the media itself.
Journalism students are given the daily opportunity to practice what they learn, in hands-on student publication laboratories, culminating in a professional internship. The world of work is but a quick step from the world of the classroom and laboratory. The journalism faculty at Western are prepared both professionally and academically to help students enter this exciting career field.
For more information, see Career Options.
Program Options: Majors and Minors
The Department of Journalism has programs leading to a B.A. in News Editorial, Public Relations, Visual Journalism, or a combined major in Environmental Studies Journalism. Minors in Journalism and Public Relations are available. Journalism courses also are options for the Freshman Interest Group (FIG) program.
For detailed information about each of these options, see Journalism Program requirements. Contact the department for advising if you have questions or need help deciding which option is for you. See criteria for declaring a pre-major below.
Student publications at Western include the semi-weekly newspaper, The Western Front: the semi-quarterly magazine, Klipsun; and the quarterly environmental magazine, The Planet. Policy for the publications is set by the Student Publications Council, and the majority of the funding is from student fees.
All Western students are eligible to participate in publications staff work. Student editors are selected each quarter by the Publications Council and receive a stipend, as do assistant editors. Students may enroll in staff courses for credit; the courses are supervised by faculty of the Department of Journalism or, in the case of The Planet, Huxley College. To inquire about opportunities in student publications, see any journalism faculty member or contact the publication's editor.
Applying to Western
For information about applying to Western Washington University, contact the Admissions Office, Old Main 200, (360) 650-3440. An Undergraduate Application for Admission is required of all freshmen, transfer and post-baccalaureate applicants. If you are thinking about transferring to Western and wondering what courses will apply toward a major in Journalism, contact the Journalism Department manager for an appointment with an adviser. For advice about General University Requirements (GURs), contact the Academic Advising Center.
Once you have been admitted to Western, we recommend that you attend a journalism advising session and formally declare a journalism pre-major as soon as possible to establish a plan of study, gain access to lower-division classes during Phase I of registration, and receive important information from the department (see Criteria for declaring a pre-major, below).
The Department of Journalism offers one scholarship to incoming freshman: The Pete Steffens Native American Scholarship. The University also has many scholarships available to new students. Contact the Scholarship Center for a list of available scholarships. The Journalism department offers up to 10 scholarships each spring for students who have declared the major and have completed certain classes within the department.
Declaring the Journalism Major
The Department of Journalism at Western has a two-step process for major declaration. Most students declare a journalism pre-major while completing the requirements to formally declare a major in journalism.
Criteria for declaring a pre-major:
To be eligible to declare a pre-major in journalism, a student must have a minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA. Transfer students will be accepted during Transitions or during their first quarter on campus. Freshmen must complete one quarter of classes at WWU to establish a GPA before being considered as a pre-major. Current WWU students must show evidence of the required 2.5 GPA. Students are encouraged to declare a pre-major while completing the requirements for the major. For complete details, see Information for Declared Pre-Majors.
Criteria for declaring a major:
Before formally declaring a major in Journalism, a student must complete the following requirements:
- Have at least 30 college credits with a cumulative 2.50 grade point average in both WWU courses and Journalism courses
- Pass JOUR 207 with a B- or better (transfer students must meet the same requirement for any course accepted as an equivalent of JOUR 207)
- Complete with a B- or better one journalism staff course
- Submit a letter of application (in correct letter format). The letter of application should demonstrate in style and grammar the student’s understanding of writing and AP style. It should also include the following:
- A discussion of what brought the student to the journalism major, with particular emphasis on why the student chose that specific track (News-Ed, PR, VJ). What does the student hope to do with that degree upon graduation?
- An analysis of how the student’s performance in journalism classes and publications demonstrates appropriate aptitude for the field.
- A discussion of the importance of ethics in journalism and the student’s specific track. Why is it important for students to understand ethics prior to beginning an internship or a job? How will the student strive to uphold the ethical code of that particular industry?
- A detailed explanation of any areas that might stand out in review of the student’s files such as failing certain journalism courses, low GPA, etc.
The letter will be judged based on style and content, including how well the student speaks to the above areas, particularly interest in the major, aptitude and ethics.
Procedure for declaring:
Dates for pre-major advising sessions and deadlines for pre-major/major declaration are posted in the Journalism Department each quarter. Please bring current transcripts (unofficial accepted), including transcripts from colleges or universities other than Western.
Information for Journalism Minors
We offer a minor in Journalism News Editorial and Public Relations. To declare a minor in Journalism, you must have at least 2.5 GPA at WWU. Contact the Journalism manager as early as possible to fill out a declaration card and be assigned a faculty adviser. Journalism courses are in high demand, and we work closely with minors to place them in classes in a timely fashion for graduation. For complete details, see Information for Journalism Minors.
Registering for Classes
During Phase I, declared journalism majors have first priority for registration in 300-level Journalism courses requiring permission. Declared journalism pre-majors and minors have second priority ahead of the general university population. Students on waiting lists will be contacted for admittance if seats are available. Declared major status is required for all 400-level Journalism classes. Please refer to the Journalism timetable of classes for a list of pre-requisites and all classes requiring override permission or major status.
Journalism students should request overrides, if necessary, at least one week before their scheduled registration appointment to get overrides. It is the responsibility of students to register for a class once an override has been entered.
Please complete a Course Override Form to request an override.
Pre-majors needing Journ 207, Newswriting should contact the Journalism manager before registration begins.
Please refer to registration information for details about registering for a class.
If you need help deciding on classes, have questions about registration, or if you need any other information, contact the Department of Journalism.