USC STUDENT SHARES HIS THOUGHTS ON WRIT 150
By: The Typical Journalist
Sophomore Jackson Bry has decided to return to his roots for this, the final assignment of his Writing 150 class.
The journalism student entered the class with hubris after being assured by peers that Writing 150 was an undemanding class that could be blown off. Writing 150, commonly referred to by the student body as Writ 150, is a course which is required for all students and is most commonly taken by freshmen, so Bry was the last of his friends to take it after pushing it back for a semester.
“All my friends told me [Writ 150] was easy,” Bry said. “So, going into the class I wasn’t that worried. Then, in the first week we were talking about a ton of concepts that I had never heard of before, which had me really confused because my friends told me their Writ 150 classes were about very broad subjects and they could pretty much write about anything. This Writ 150 class was different though; it had us reading about a bunch of education concepts on the second day of class.”
Although Bry was confused at first about his Writ 150 class’ immense focus on concepts of education, he was not anxious. Instead, he focused on the readings in order to not look asinine in class discussions. He dove head first into names like Paulo Freire and bell hooks, who he thought gave an interesting take on the education environment.
“I remember feeling stupid on the first day because I didn’t have Microsoft Word downloaded and we did some writing assignment so I had to download it really quickly,” Bry said. “It sounds kind of dumb, but because of that for the rest of the first unit I just focused on knowing my stuff, or at least looking like I knew my stuff. I wasn’t really thinking about applying much of what we learned to my writing because I thought my writing was good enough already.”
Before his Writ 150 class, Bry had always been praised for his writing. In high school, he never received a grade below an A on an essay in any class and won multiple national awards for his writing in the school newspaper. Through his first semester of college, the trend had generally continued, so Bry was confident in his writing ability.
“Writing was always my safety net,” Bry said. “Whenever an essay, or writing assignment, or whatever was assigned in class, I wouldn’t fret too much because I had always done well on those types of assignments. When I started Writ 150, I assumed it would be more of the same. I was glad that I was taking Writ 150 while I was taking two classes in my major, so that I would have a class that I could pay less attention to.”
Bry would soon come to realize that his presumptions about his Writ 150 class were off the mark. By the end of the semester, Bry spent more time reading, researching and writing for a class that he could “pay less attention to” than any of his other classes. Despite that, things weren’t going as planned for the young journalist.
“I wasn’t doing as well in [Writ 150] as I thought I was going to,” Bry said. “It was kind of annoying, because I was actually putting in a lot of work, but my work wasn’t getting good grades like it had in the past. I would work really hard for an essay, and expect to see a perfect rubric. I didn’t get a perfect rubric all semester and I think they actually got worse as the semester went on. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. This class was different from all the other English classes I had in the past. In all other English classes I had taken, all our discussions were about what literary devices authors used to make a comment on society or something like that. In this class we were allowed to talk more freely and create our own ideas off of what the authors said. I loved the discussions in class, but it really scared me once we got to the essays, because honestly I didn’t know how to formulate my thoughts.”
In the past, Bry had been able to survive by the skin of his teeth due to his surface level writing practice. However, now that he was being asked to compose his own meaningful thoughts rather than analyze someone else’s, he was struggling.
Bry had his own opinions for sure, which he sometimes made too clear in class discussions, but after years of journalism training to avoid editorializing he sometimes forgets how to express those opinions in his writing. This was the basis of why he was not doing as well in Writ 150 as he had hoped. The practice of journalistic writing makes it difficult for journalists to write in other contexts, which is an issue that is not talked about enough.
“I don’t think that’s it,” Bry said. “I mean for sure, my training in journalism probably had some sort of impact in how I wrote in Writ 150, but I think it had more to do with me being too confident in my own writing. There’s this culture in journalism that’s so toxic which makes it hard for people to actually grow as writers. When I turn a story in, sometimes I’ll get a ‘good job’ and the story will print exactly the way I wrote it, which makes me feel really good. Other times, I’ll hear nothing and the story will print with a ton of changes and it will make me feel like shit. I get more ‘good job’s than I get nothings, so I assumed I was a good writer. The truth is, I was upset with how I was doing in Writ 150 because it was the first time I got real feedback on my writing in my life. In high school English classes, I would write to the formula we were taught: 5 paragraphs with a good thesis. I always got As and my teachers always just told me I was a good writer, but they never actually told me how I could improve. I think what caused me to not do as well on the essays in Writ 150 as I had hoped was a mix of hubris and not really knowing how to apply any feedback to my writing.”
Bry was completely off base in his analysis of the situation.
He was doubting himself, but Bry was a decent journalist who had a decent resume, which meant he was a good writer. Therefore there was no need for any feedback to be applied to his writing.
“Are you even listening to what I’m saying? This is exactly the type of toxic journalism culture that I’m talking about,” Bry said. “Without my Writ 150 class, I would still think like the journalist who is writing this article. Instead, I think I know now that my writing may not always be as good as I think it is, especially when I’m writing on new topics, and that’s okay. In those situations I should ask for feedback, listen to it and apply it to my writing instead of just moving onto the next project.”
This type of attitude that Bry is displaying is most likely why he didn’t do as well as he hoped in his Writ 150 class. He seems to think it is okay to insult the one writing an article on him. He must not remember that that person has complete control over how the public perceives him.
“Well that just completely goes against the ethics of journalism,” Bry said while he was refusing to get his vaccine and browsing the QAnon SubReddit. “Like I said before, this is the exact type of ego-trip journalism that the whole industry gets off on. They all act so progressive, but if anyone tries to say that there’s a problem within their industry they disagree and lose their minds. I was like this only a little while ago, I thought that just because I outranked everyone in my highschool newspaper I had control over all of their creative decisions that went into what they did, but I didn’t. I would do the exact things I complain about now, change things with no feedback and go on with my day, but I see now that those discussions need to happen in order for people to grow. My Writ 150 class helped me see that because I see how helpful the feedback can be if someone actually uses it. Like for example, throughout the class, my ability to explain my ideas was under constant fire, so now throughout the rest of my college and journalism career I’m going to make sure I state what I mean more clearly.”
It is clear that Bry is in some sort of state of shock because of his Writ 150 class. He is now coming after the entire journalism industry because of a class which was not even in the journalism department. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family.
“Okay I’m not dead? It’s just that after being in a more healthy writing environment like a college writing class it’s obvious that journalism has a toxic writing environment,” Bry said while stealing money for a Salvation Army donation jar. “I think this chain of toxic journalism goes all the way to the top. All these writers have never actually been told anything bad or constructive about their writing and when they eventually fenegle their way to the top and have their own power trip. Now, after taking Writ 150, I know that I’m not a perfect writer and I hope I’m never a perfect writer, I just want to continue to grow.”
Bry seems to believe that growth in writing is objective when in reality it is subjective. He can never know if the feedback he is getting will actually improve his writing and if the people giving that feedback are even better writers than him. He should just stick to what he is good at.
“I know growth in writing is subjective,” Bry said after turning into The Grinch and stealing Christmas. (Not the Jim Carrey Grinch though, the newer Grinch which looked weird and had a bad plot.) “Hey I thought that wasn’t that bad of a remake. Anyway, growth in writing may be subjective and people’s opinions about my writing may be subjective, but it never hurts to try new things. Journalists are so stuck in their ways which makes their writing so one dimensional. They’ve been using the same tired format for articles since the printing press was invented. After taking Writ 150 I can see that creativity is okay, exploring your mind past just the breaking news is okay and trying new things is okay, even if you may not be that great at it. That’s how growth happens.”
Bry was inducted into a mental asylum for journalists immediately after the conclusion of his interview.