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This item originally appeared in the April 8, 2004 issue of The Tech Talk.

"Why can't anybody write for The Tech Talk?" This is the question I have been asked most often since I began serving my time here three years ago.

Serving time. That's how we look at it. The Tech Talk is required of every journalism major for four quarters; minors get off with just two quarters.

As opposed to the many students on campus who would like to report "for fun," many or most journalism majors get scared out of their wits because they see the paper for what it really is -- a grade.

And that is why only journalism majors and minors are allowed to write for The Tech Talk.

We take a whole year of journalism classes before we are even allowed to join. It would be like me calling up the College of Engineering and Science and asking if I could enroll in a 400-level mechanical engineering class because I like to "fix stuff."

They would laugh in my face.

Of course, when students get belligerent because they want to write for us and "they are really good in English," we don't laugh in their faces.

I, however, think it is important to explain that English and journalism are on completely different plateaus.

Let's explore some of the differences.

Much of English is reading fiction; much of journalism is writing nonfiction.

English paragraphs should be no less than five sentences; journalism paragraphs should be no more than two or three sentences.

That's because readers tend to lose interest if the paragraphs get too long.

So we break them up.

See, you're still reading, so it worked.

English majors are taught the art of description; journalism majors are taught to never use adjectives or adverbs.

English papers are full of big words, the fancier and more intelligent the better, even if you're just talking about a clear spring day; journalists have to explain difficult subjects like trenchless technology and biomedical engineering on a sixth-grade reading level.

Even the grammar is different. English papers have two spaces after a period; journalism papers have one. This is MLA style (English) versus AP style (journalism). And believe me, it's no piece of cake keeping them separate.

Many journalism majors are English minors (myself included), and a lot of people think it's a cop out because they're the same thing.

Not true. When I was associate editor for The Tech Talk in fall, I had an English professor tell me, "I can't pass you in my class if you can't write." Talk about a low blow. (I ended up getting a "B" in the class.)

So, how are we "The student voice of Louisiana Tech University" if not anybody can write for us?

Good question, I'm glad you asked. Like I said earlier, we go through classes that specifically teach us how to write for the paper. In those classes we learn to never put ourselves into the story.

We quote you the readers, not ourselves. This is the only page on which you will find a Tech Talk staffer's opinion.

But, if that's not good enough for you, anybody is welcome to write a letter to the editor. All you have to do is comment on something happening on campus and give me your name, major and classification. We have a whole page (page 5, Back Talk) dedicated to your letters.

To make one more contrast between English and journalism, imagine writing an English paper and having it distributed to 11,000 students and then mailed to people all over the country so they can read it and critique it.

That's The Tech Talk.

Are you still envious of our jobs? Then write a letter to the editor.

Heidi Hausmann is a senior journalism major from Opelousas and serves as editor for The Tech Talk. E-mail comments to heidi

hausmann@hotmail.com.


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