What’s The Point Of Journalism School, Anyway? : NPR

This NPR piece is worth a read/listen.

Whats The Point Of Journalism School, Anyway? : NPR.

I’m troubled by the gloom-and-doom talk about j-schools for a number of reasons.

First, j-schools provide valuable training to prepare students to work in journalism, which is central to an informed and responsible democracy. Our founder, Willard Bleyer, once said, “the future of democratic government in this country depends upon the character of its newspapers.” I believe that (though I’d tie it to news organizations, not a paper medium). People can go on to be excellent journalists having never set foot in a journalism school. But universities that dedicate resources to training those who do want to serve as a check on government and institutions are properly recognizing the critical nature of robust and ethical journalism.

Second, j-schools are about more than training reporters. The gloom stories tend to be reductionist … 14,000 jobs lost in newspapers means no one will get a job, so why have the journalism schools in the first place? Baloney. Our j-school is about so much more than “j.” We educate kids who want to go into strategic communication, kids who want to go into public service, lawyers, teachers, even a doctor or two.

The central premise of all this is that no matter how you use the education we provide, we’re going to teach you how to write and teach you how to think. (Note to critics: that’s “how” to think, not “what” to think. I’m not about viewpoint orthodoxy.)

I cannot imagine a time in human history when these skills were more needed. The explosion of information available screams out for people who can gather it, analyze it and communicate about it. Pretty good justification for a journalism school, I think.

J-Schoolers, what are you going to do with the degree we help you earn? Alumni, what have you done with it?

How do you follow the news on your iPad?

A number of us around SJMC are sporting iPads this semester — either because we’ve purchased our own or because we’re involved in a nice pilot project to get iPads into several SJMC courses this year, funded by the UW Library System.  So I’ve found myself being asked “What do you use your iPad for?” — or more specifically, “How do you consume news on your iPad?”

For me, much of that answer is that I make little icon shortcuts for online news sites that I visit often.  But I have some favorite apps as well.  I like Instapaper because it helps me clip articles when I’m on my laptop and pick them up later when I’m on my iPad (or iPhone). The NPR app is great, though I find I just use my normal iTunes NPR podcasts more than the spiffy NPR app.  I also use NetNewsWire for my RSS feeds now (since Bloglines is folding) because it integrates well with Google Reader.  Again, NetNewsWire has an app for the iPad, an app for the iPhone, and a regular software package for my Mac — I like it when I’m using the same program on all three platforms.  The NYT Editor’s Choice app is usually interesting.  But honestly my main “news” app is — get ready — the Nook app for iPad.  Yes, the Barnes and Noble rather clunky Kindle competitor has an iPad app, and they allow you to subscribe to periodicals.  It’s not flashy but it gets the job done.  I subscribe to the Nation, the New York Review of Books, the New Yorker, and the New York Times through Nook.  (Please hold the snarky jokes about how I’m incapable of reading anything not produced in the east coast megalopolis.  It’s partially a function of what periodical subscriptions are available to be purchased right now.)  The one thing I really like about the Nook app — and that I liked about my physical Kindle, too — is the distraction-free, text-heavy, no-advertisement format of those periodicals.  And I should mention I’m reading a lot of e-books on my Kindle app for the iPad as well.  In other words, I end up using my iPad for lots and lots of reading, even more than I do for web browsing.

How do the rest of you use these new tools?

What do you need in a great J-School education?

Last night, an SJMC strat comm student tweeted this:
Article about how journalism schools are failing. My @uw_sjmc classes already address these issues http://bit.ly/ajpK9g . #myschoolisbetter

Here’s the story on MediaShift from PBS:

MediaShift . How Journalism Teachers are Failing, and How to Stop It | PBS.

I was glad to read this student’s assessment that we are already including these concepts in SJMC (as well as his bragging hashtag that we are better).

Perhaps most important to me was that this was a story about journalism but a strat comm student pointed to it. I think that speaks to how we have been able to cut across the traditional silos in media training and deliver lessons that are common across fields.

Regardless of this student’s praise, though, we all have to ask ourselves repeatedly: Are we integrating multimedia in our courses effectively?

The practical training is all well and good. When you finished J345, were you able to edit together an audio spot? (Through some combination of in-class teaching, extra-class training and your own try/fail/try again/succeed?)

But the conceptual is far more important to me. Did your combo of journalism track classes teach you how the move from appointment listening to time-shifted mobile or desktop listening has affected timeliness as a communication value in radio and added emphasis to storytelling?

No journalism course can do everything. Witness the 10 pounds shoved into the 5-pound sack of J202 to understand that. But we want them to be moving forward and keeping pace with changing media. We cannot forget the foundational principles. Ethics, for instance, is the constant that gets greatest weight in my courses. But we always need to be attending to how those principles play out in new and different ways.

But I still don’t want to be the mayor of Vilas on FourSquare.