It only occurred to me after I graduated that going to journalism school is sort of like buying a new computer.
When you first start shopping, there’s a whole bunch of new features, fingerprint scanners, built-in web cams, USB2 ports and who knows what other seemingly pointless functions. You pony up the money – and then come to find six months later, everything’s already out of date. Learn how to use a camera? Shoot competent video and edit? Neato. But now we’re using D-SLRs, editing in different ways and actually, coding is all the rage now.
There’s been some chatting in the states recently about what needs to be done to re-boot J-Schools. Improving diversity, fostering research and innovation, studying how people consume the news and generally trying to be proactive in the evolution of journalism, rather than reactive.
That’s all fine and well from an academic and administrative perspective, but what about us students, or former students?
Whether it be US or UK, we, the students, are investing a hell of a lot of money into our education. We know what we pay in student loans. Me? I’ve got another 25 years until I pay off mine. And for what?
A few years back, right before I moved abroad to do my M.A., I remember a couple of veteran reporters at the paper I was interning at had asked me what I studied and was planning to do. I told them I had an undergrad in journalism and was going to do an M.A.
I can’t remember if they laughed, or just asked me flat out “Why”?
All I remember is that I didn’t have a good answer.
Getting back on topic, this discussion on how to usher in journalism education is all well and good, but it doesn’t answer the question if J-school is even relevant anymore. Maybe things are moving towards hybrid degrees like at Columbia.
Increasingly, students are specializing in fields other than journalism and then going on to do an M.A. in journalism, or something like that. Or, there is no M.A. at all.
Of all the topics discussed about how to re-boot journalism school, I think maybe one is the closest to the answer – and that is trying to repurpose J-schools as almost media labs, where there is the ability for students, academics and whomever else, to experiment with new ways of telling stories, distributing content and learning and plying the trade.
Of course, to do any of this, you have to write, know how to tell bullshit from truth and be a strong reporter. But you don’t need to go to J-school to learn how to do that.
Increasingly, you don’t need to go to J-school to learn how to do anything related to our jobs. For the most part, it’s become an aging formality. So this topic of how to re-boot journalism schools is a critical one, because not only do administrators and academics need to find a way to make it seem like a worthwhile investment for us students, but they also need to get to the bottom of whether or not J-schools are still a relevant model of education.
What do you think?
photo courtesy of fujinliow