Journalism students need to know business

Students should not be allowed to graduate from journalism school without some business sense and knowledge of the journalism industry.

Every student should know how to write, edit, research, report and have strong online skills. But those are just skills, as Kiyoshi Martinez puts it. Journalism students also need to understand the industry they are about to enter, while also understanding basic economics and business:

Knowing the business and industry means realizing the broader challenges journalism as a whole is facing. Look beyond what job you’ll be doing and take a look at the snapshot portrait that’s being developed right now about the profession. Do you know about the mass layoffs, buyouts, paycuts and hiring freezes? How about the declining or stagnating advertising revenues? What do you know about what stock analysts are saying about the price per share on the major newspaper chains? Do you know the stock history of the parent company of the paper you’re applying to? More importantly, do you know how all of this will affect your job (should you get it) and the benefits, raises (or lack thereof) that you receive?

First j-schools should be honest about the state of the industry and educate students about the history of it. Professors need to educate students about possible futures they may face. Then j-schools should at least make students take a basic economics or business class (this should probably be a requirement for all college students).

We all make jokes about journalists being bad at math and not understanding or caring about business. We all laugh, and everyone has a good time, but it’s not much of a joke anymore. It’s kind of just sad really.

Journalism needs enterprising journalists to think of new ventures to modernize journalism. Opportunities in journalism will increasingly be from entrepreneurial routes as the mainstream media continues to wither away from obsolescence.

When journalism was doing well, and journalism companies were living in the monopoly era, business sense was the last thing journalists needed. Somebody else could worry about that. But that’s not the case anymore.

Traditional media companies are failing, journalists don’t understand how to make compelling products and new media ventures are beginning to take over. That’s where solid entrepreneurial skills come in.

Let’s be perfectly clear here: People want to be informed. They like journalism. They, however, want journalism in different, more modern forms.

That’s why students need to understand how to start their own ventures and compete on the Web. Jeff Jarvis started an entrepreneurial journalism class at CUNY, and every journalism school should have a course like it.

The opportunities for journalists are growing, not shrinking. The traditional, MSM routes are rapidly shrinking, but the avenues for business savvy, enterprising young journalists are ever expanding.

Journalism schools need to give students the skills needed to succeeded in modern journalism. That means a little business sense is now needed.

  • I totally agree with you about journalists joking how they don’t know math. Look, until you fail your first test in differential equations then you can complain about how mathematics is a “hard” subject.

    No one’s every asked a journalist to know calculus, just some basic algebra or statistics. It’s not tough. Plus, they invented these things called calculators.

    Sorry to get on a rant, but I’d just get annoyed at other journalism students when I was in college who complained about having to take one math course. Little did they know that financial journalism is actually one of the few sectors where there’s hiring in the profession.

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