By Rosemary Ostmann ’93
NEW YORK, NY (March 14) – Whenever I want to help people understand how much has changed since I was in college, I tell them how I had to pass a typing test on a manual typewriter to be admitted into journalism school. It was 1990 and, believe it or not, typing experience was not a given.
I realized I wanted to major in journalism when I was in high school. I love to write and I enjoy editing my work just as much as creating it. I’m also a big believer in the power of storytelling. A good narrative makes us care about what’s happening in the world around us and compels us to action. Stories help us make sense of society and connect us to history as well as to the future.
A great example is Lin-Manuel Miranda retelling the story of one of our country’s unsung heroes in the award-winning musical Hamilton. If you haven’t already, listen to the lyrics of “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”.
Once I passed that typing test and was admitted to the College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, I had to decide which of the four available tracks, or specialty areas, I wanted to choose: News Editorial, Broadcast, Public Relations or Advertising. At the time, I was an admirer of both Maria Shriver and Katie Couric. I gave some serious thought to broadcast, but I ultimately decided to go with Public Relations.
I remember hearing some of my classmates talk about how hard it was to interview people who didn’t want to be interviewed. I believe now more than ever in the role journalism plays in keeping people honest, but I decided to focus my academic energy on helping organizations and people tell the stories they want to be told.
A few years after I graduated, the College of Journalism decided to eliminate the public relations and advertising tracks. Frankly, it never made sense to me to put advertising anywhere but in the business school. But a degree in journalism has served me incredibly well in my 20+ year career in public relations and marketing.
My company, RoseComm, is a strategic communications firm that helps clients uncover and share their stories with the people who matter most. Whether engaging in direct conversation or enlisting the support of industry influencers – journalists and bloggers – we give our clients a voice.
Many companies today are looking at their brands through an editorial lens and creating “brand newsrooms” as part of a content marketing strategy. They want to be in a two-way conversation and develop content that is meaningful and shareable across traditional and digital channels.
My degree has not only helped me in engaging with the media; I was also taught to understand news value and to write journalistically. I’m not suggesting that we blur the line between true editorial and sponsored content. But if I’m asked what a young person should study if they want to prepare for the future of PR, I always tell them to consider a degree in journalism or to find a program that requires them to take journalism classes. No one tells a story like a journalist.