Late Update - Hella Info

Yes, I know - this article should have been up yesterday. However, I hope you can tell from the content that I've got a thing or two occupying me at the moment.

As seen in the Oregon Daily Emerald!

When people ask me what my major is and I reply, with a hint of dismay, “Journalism”, the response is always the same. No one ever asks me what I want to do with my degree or why I got into journalism (and maybe that’s for the best, because in both cases I sure as hell don’t know), but instead I am constantly bombarded by the same question: “Have you taken Info Hell yet?”

Journalism 202, a Pre-Journalism class in which students have 10 weeks to write an exhaustively researched 20 page research paper and nearly 70 pages of annotations, has achieved something of a legendary status among the student body. Ghost stories are told around the campfire (or hookah) about Info Hell students who went insane after annotating one too many sources or got lost and starved to death in the library stacks. And every term, a few hundred terrified Pre-Journalism majors must face the terror of Info Hell firsthand, marching off into oblivion with the same fatalistic mentality as a red shirt security officer on the starship Enterprise: the coming days will be bleak, and not everyone will make it out alive.

I am currently enrolled in Info Hell myself, and although it’s only the second week I can proudly say that I’ve already considered switching majors five times. Much of my weekend was spent immersed in an ocean of research about the current state of the American prison system, and as you read this I am fighting my way through a flurry of two-page annotations that are due by the end of the week. The work is, to say the least, unpleasant.

So imagine my disappointment when I heard that next year Info Hell, along with two other prerequisites, will be discontinued in favor of a pair of more streamlined courses designed to keep up with the changing face of journalism. There will be no more 100 page research paper, no more throngs of anxious students outside Kinko’s the night before the due date, no more horrific descents into madness at the inability to find one more scholarly source. It seems that the University wants to keep its curriculum up to date – and more power to them. It appears that the intent is to remove the mammoth research paper aspect of the journalism major and replace it with something less intimidating and, in their eyes, more useful to the modern journalist.

However, I think Info Hell is a very useful course as it is. Yes, it’s unlikely that anyone will ever have to face down that much raw research and planning in their professional life, but I don’t think that’s the point. I think that the point of Info Hell is to be horrific, frightening, and larger than life – the Keyser Soze of prerequisite classes, if you will. While the course may have been designed as a means to teach students about how to distill facts into a cohesive paper, it does a much more important job now: it separates the men and the women from the boys and the girls.

I’m not really sure why I decided to pursue a major in journalism – it’s certainly not because I want to be journalist. Part of the reason was because I didn’t like the English curriculum, and part of the reason was that, under the right circumstances, I look like a TV news anchor. But my motives for being in the journalism department certainly aren’t ironclad.

It’s going to take a course like Info Hell for me to find out whether journalism is what I want to do or not. If I find that I can’t keep up with the class’s considerable workload, that’ll be a surefire sign that I should look for something else to study. However, if I pass, I’ll know that I’m on the right track. Rather than get rid of a class like Info Hell, I feel like there should be a similar class in every major. Sure, it might sound objectionable at the outset, but give it some thought – when, chemistry majors, would you like to realize that you hate chemistry? As a freshman or a sophomore, or as you’re walking off the stage with your chemistry degree in hand?

That which does not kill you only makes you stronger; worst case scenario, I’ll be dead by the end of the term. Best case? I’ll be an exceptionally strong aspiring journalist.