In June 1972, two young journalists learned that a break-in had occurred at the Democratic National Committee's offices in Washington, D.C. The subsequent investigation earned reporter Bob Woodward a Pulitzer Prize, and exposed one of the world’s most notorious scandals: Watergate.
Bob Woodward was an investigative journalist by trade, but not by training. Instead, he had studied and earned himself an English literature and history diploma from a liberal arts college.
If you’re considering a career in investigative journalism, liberal arts college is a good place to start. In a close-knit environment where your opinions are valued higher than your test scores, you can hone certain skills that turn liberal arts students into successful investigative journalists.
1. Liberal Arts Programs Improve Your Communication Skills
Communication is the most fundamental aspect of journalism! When you pursue this path, you’ll need to be able to communicate stories effectively and express findings in thoughtful, articulate ways. Liberal arts students practice these skills, not only through written coursework, but in engaging class debates and discussions as well.
When you become an investigative journalist, passionate, persuasive communication skills will help you elicit the trust of your audience and your sources. Honing these skills in college will ultimately help you make the lasting change you're aiming for.
2. Liberal Arts School Fosters Critical Thinking
Grads of liberal arts programs don't take the status quo for granted. With their knowledge of history and political philosophy, they understand the fragility of an open society—and how hidden forces can undermine it. Above all, these programs produce critical thinkers who don’t take facts at face value.
Journalists like Bob Woodward constantly evaluate the truthfulness of testimony and examine how power structures intersect. In social science and humanities courses, you’ll expand your perspective on the world and improve your analysis of the ways society functions at every level—precise qualities required in investigative journalism.
Liberal arts students get valuable experience working as part of a team.
3. Collaboration Beats Competition in Liberal Arts Programs
You can't make it far in an investigation if you don't know how to work together with sources and colleagues in pursuit of a common goal. At liberal arts school, you'll learn how to contribute effectively to major projects with others. You’ll collaborate—not compete—with peers in your campus community.
Whether you’re researching history or contemporary issues or partaking in the vibrant extra-curricular offerings liberal arts schools like Shimer offer, you'll be practicing effective collaboration.
4. Your Liberal Arts Education Involves Advanced Research Skills
Those with a liberal arts education have an advantage in the field of journalism due to the practical research skills they develop in school. In a job that calls you to interview sources and evaluate the validity of information, proficient research will be essential.
Moreover, the quantitative analysis social science training imparts will give you experience you can apply to investigating financial irregularities. The research methodologies that are second nature to liberal arts grads are invaluable to pros like Woodward, and his fellow liberal arts alumni/Pulitzer winning investigative journalists Don Bolles and Lesley Stahl.
Digging deep into research is part of a journalist’s role in protecting the public interest.
5. In Class and On Campus, Liberal Arts Give You a Sense of Integrity
One of the most rewarding aspects of investigate journalism is the knowledge that you’re uncovering injustice. But what qualifies as wrong-doing, and what constitutes truth?
When you study in liberal arts programs, you develop a solid basis in moral philosophy that will guide you no matter where you’re headed after graduation. If you do become an investigative journalist, this moral integrity will help you make tough choices about what to reveal, who to help, and which wrongs to right through your written word.
Are you interested in pursuing liberal arts school for a career in journalism?
Visit Shimer for more information about getting started.