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?

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.

Checkbook Journalism and the ethics of the iPhone scoop

The tech blog Gizmodo scored a huge story when it acquired what appears to be the next incarnation of the Apple iPhone. They paid an anonymous individual $5,000 for the device after he found it in a Redwood City, CA bar, apparently left there by an Apple engineer celebrating his 27th birthday. After finding the device the man says he contacted Apple via phone, but none of the people he spoke to seemed to believe him. It was then he decided to sell it to the highest bidder. After hearing this story Gizmodo decided to pay for the device.

Is this good journalism? Apple certainly considered the device stolen at this point, and when they found out where it was they quickly moved to get it back. According to an article at DailyFinance the finder never spoke to any employees of the bar, where the Apple employee “called constantly trying to retrieve [the phone]”. The finder also never contacted Police, nor just drove to down the road to Apple, 20 minutes from the bar, and dropped it off.

Is what Engadget did ethical? Nick Denton, CEO of Gawker Media the parent company of Gizmodo, doesn’t seem to want to comment. In an interview with CNET he left that up to the media ethicists.

As a non-journalist it looks to me like Gizmodo saw the ad revenue they would get from this scoop and disregarded what must have been some pretty big red flags. What do you think? Is this kind of “checkbook journalism”, especially considering the possibility of Gizmodo receiving stolen property, okay?