This NPR piece is worth a read/listen.
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?