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?

6 thoughts on “What’s The Point Of Journalism School, Anyway? : NPR

  1. I read this yesterday, and I couldn’t agree with Professor Culver more. I took an internship with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after graduation and was asked to stay on through the end of the calendar year. While the job market is rough, the skills I learned at the j-school (writing acurately, asking tough questions, critical thinking, etc.) helped me be sucessful in this position and will help me no matter if I continue with journalism, decide to teach or go back to school.

    With the explosion of information, so much of the public fails to understand how to digest it. I think all undergraduates, or even high schoolers, should be required to take a course on journalism or how to be an intelligent consumer of media. Maybe then, there would be more of a demand for great journalists and credible news organizations.

  2. Well, I did the obvious thing — with my ’02 degree from the Michigan State University J-School, I became a reporter, first on the city desk, then here in Madison in features.

    But along the way, my j-school training helped me excel at a nonprofit, where fearless, articulate calls to donors and supporters was a key part of my job. I had learned to write quickly and clearly, a key skill in graduate school and in many public relations freelance positions I snapped up while there.

    Now I write about arts, but working at the Capital News Service at MSU and writing about government on the city desk taught me how to cut through the crap and get to the real nugget of the thing, how to do conscientious research, how to make sure each story is as balanced as possible, even how, in some cases, to make clear what we DON’T know.

    I learned so much more than how to write. I learned the value of accuracy in discourse; I learned to be unafraid to ask questions, to push for information that I need not just as a journalist, but as a voter and an arts patron and a citizen.

    I agree that a course or two on journalism would be excellent training for undergraduates everywhere, if only to show that what we do in the newsrooms has value. I would still encourage students to go for a j-school degree, if there are not the kinds of jobs people are used to seeing waiting for j-school grads on the other side of the ceremony.

  3. Thanks for this post Katy. You are absolutely correct. I graduated from the j-school at UW-Madison in 2009. The job market was tough, but two weeks after graduation, I started an internship at a strategic communication firm in Chicago. Four months later, I was hired full time. I love my job, and I’m eternally grateful for the education I received. The writing, strategic thinking, and communication skills honed in the j-school are an asset to any position/career track.

  4. A few replies via Facebook:

    Mike Westling
    All things I use on a daily basis:

    – Speak with TV producers in their language
    – Provide info to reporters that is actually useful
    – Write concisely
    – Edit audio and video
    – Explain to web designers exactly what my org. needs from a new website
    – Tell people they were technically wrong when they spelled it “website”… until the AP changed it this year

    Kate Hogan
    So much! How to conduct good interviews, how to write concisely, how to use good grammar (and correct other people’s mistakes). And I couldn’t have made it in magazines without J417 — working on CURB was invaluable.

    Nicole Schmidt
    Working as a media planner and buyer, I use the skills and tools that I learned in J447 daily. Strategic thinking and understanding of the consumer mindset and how it relates to the media they consume are also crucial tools that I learned in 202 and 345 that I use on a daily basis. The list could go on and on – but I hope that helps!

  5. My training and experience in journalism have helped me develop critical communication skills, including news judgment – having a sense of what’s most important to tell and how to convey it within finite space or time. Training and experience also taught me professional ethics, sensibilities and discipline, which I’d like to think my employer values.

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