Monday, November 16, 2009

Close Journalism Schools?

An article in Huffington Post by Richard Sine, a freelance journalist, argues that journalism schools should be closed. Why? Because the current closing of many newspapers and magazines and downsizing of staff eliminate the job opportunities that heretofore were available. So why pay $70,000 (at Columbia) a year to learn a dinosaur profession that takes you nowhere, he asks.

Short-term thinking if I’ve ever heard it. While it may be appropriate to examine and update the curriculum of the nation’s journalism schools and review the value/tuition equation, journalism training is not restricted to hard-copy media. I’m firmly convinced that the growth in online paid subscriptions will increase. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has already announced that he will be charging for online content and Hearst, The New York Times and TIME are considering plans for possible Internet fees. Moreover, as the social media continue to explode, new models are emerging to underwrite the costs of online journalism, including subscriptions for mobile content (for Apple and Kindle, for example). If this trend continues, economic opportunities for reporters and editors should once again pick up.

Further, will our government really permit the demise of the Fourth Estate – which, acting in the public interest, has uncovered serious ethics or other infractions in virtually every institution, from the U.S. presidency to major business and non-profit institutions? The Fourth Estate is a key watchdog in protecting the body politic. If we do not train professional journalists and pay them a living wage, we will diminish democracy’s standing in the world. The Fourth Estate has enabled us to be a role-model where other countries have fallen short.

The lily-livered statement of the Dean of the Journalism School at Columbia is appalling: “I’ve never met a single person in 35 years who went into journalism school out of pure economic reasons.” Rather than championing the importance of journalism as a noble profession that deserves superior economic reward, he implies that its social mission reigns supreme, ignoring the importance of the economic mission.

With champions like Dean Nicholas Lemann at what is acknowledged to be the nation’s leading “J” school, journalism training will indeed die along with the Fourth Estate. Not only must the journalism leadership at universities speak out, but the leadership of our nation must address the problem, too.

If journalism does move wholly online, which is doubtful (as no medium—print, radio, TV – has ever totally disappeared), there is a woeful need for training. Online writing calls for training in a range of techniques that make it more readable and consumable. There is an art to writing effective blogs, news articles, emails, features, Wikis, etc. Investigative journalism, with the help of Google and other search engines, takes on new dimensions. Understanding the need and the potential contributions of sponsors, advertisers and public relations professionals can have a substantial impact on the way journalists operate. Further, new ethical and transparency concerns have already arisen and must be addressed.

The Fourth Estate is indeed undergoing a change. I believe that this revolution will ultimately enable it to rise again, and pay for journalists will rise along with it, as the marketplace comes to realize that we once again must pay for -- and train for -- that which is worth having.

Technorati Tags: journalism schools, Huffington Post, Richard Sine,Rupert Murdoch, Hearst, The New York Times, TIME, social media, Apple, Kindle, Dean Nicholas Lemann,The Fourth Estate,communications, internet, public relations, Makovsky


Anonymous Tim Askew said...

I love your passion, savvy idealism and didactic generosity. Thanks for your consistent and authoritative posts.

Tim Askew
Corporate Rain International

Monday, November 16, 2009 2:20:00 PM  

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