What is the future of journalism education?
Many people have taken issue with journalism education, especially in the U.S. One major concern is that journalism education appears to be behind the industry and rarely out in front, innovating. Many people even advise against majoring in journalism.
But let’s step back from the criticisms of journalism education and ask, what should journalism education be like? Forget the tenured has-beens and the slow moving deans, what would an ideal journalism program look like in 2008?
Would it even be four years? Would it be a certificate program? Would it be a major that required another major?
Would it be a minor? Would it be heavily cross discipline, relying on other majors and departments for core courses?
Before I get to far into this post, I want to caution that these are just ideas that I’m throwing around. I don’t agree with all of them, but I am hoping to get a conversation started. Honestly, I’m making this post because I don’t really know what the future of journalism education should be.
First, we must admit that a journalism major or certificate will never be required to be a journalist. In fact, a four-year degree used to not be a requirement at most news organizations. Now it is, but you’ll still find a lot of journalists without journalism degrees, even in top posts.
Then we must admit that journalism education at the undergraduate level is much more akin to technical training than higher education. I majored in political science and journalism. Poly sci was very academic and theory based. Journalism was very hands on and job oriented — like technical school.
If most journalism programs are essentially job training programs, then why are they four-year programs? Why do many employers want someone with a BA, when a journalism certificate would probably suffice? Most journalism is learned on the job. Wouldn’t it make more sense for perspective journalists to take a one to two year certificate program, while getting more professional experience, instead of spending four years studying journalism?
There are several ways to handle a certificate program. It could be something that people do instead of a four-year degree or it could be something that people do in addition to a four-year degree (nursing is similar to this, but it pays a lot better). Imagine a perspective science reporter majoring in biology and receiving a journalism certificate.
Wouldn’t that better prepare someone to be a science reporter than a four-year degree in journalism? Double majoring isn’t the easiest thing to do in the world, especially across departments and colleges. And frankly, does a science reporter really need four years of journalism education?
Some schools only offer a journalism minor, which requires a student to have a major in another subject. A minor could offer the same training as a journalism certificate program. Maybe it makes sense for colleges and universities to require that journalism minors and majors have another major (and I’m thinking more along the lines of economics, poly sci, a science than something like English).
Then there is a cross discipline approach. For instance, let’s say a school offered an entrepreneurial journalism program. Wouldn’t it make sense for students to be required to take courses such as economics, marketing and business management?
And I can’t imagine having an entrepreneurial journalism program that doesn’t require some Web development and computer science courses. These computer and business classes would be core requirements for the major.
By cross discipline, I don’t mean just taking a bunch of random Arts and Sciences classes, like many journalism majors are required to take. I mean requiring specific courses, particularly in areas that could help make someone a better journalist. Most journalists are lacking when it comes to computer and business.
Frankly, I don’t think courses on how to blog or use Twitter are appropriate for four-year colleges and universities. Those sound like something straight out of adult education. Today’s 18-21 year olds don’t need help learning to blog or how to use social networking.
Usually, its their professors who do. And the students who don’t use or understand social networking are probably not the kinds of people news organizations are looking to hire. What young, inquisitive college student needs to be shown how to use social networking and blogging?
It would be a very poor sign for journalism and journalism education if the kinds of students that j-schools attract are technologically deficient in comparison to their peers. Journalism has become a field that requires people to have a strong grasp of technology. J-schools needs to be attracting students who embrace technology, not trying to teach basic Web technology to uninquisitive students.
Nobody taught me how to blog, and, fittingly enough, the best resources about how to blog are found on blogs. Twitter is one of those things that the only way to understand how to use it and its usefulness is to dive right in. Nobody can teach you the value of Twitter; you have to experience it.
And what college student hasn’t at least played around with Facebook and MySpace? Those are not the kinds of students j-schools and certificate programs need.
What do you think journalism education? Should be a four-year program? Certificate? What would it teach?
What are the course courses of a journalism program (college and certificate)?
Here are some thoughts from people on Twitter:
kev097 Definitely. I think the journalism major is, prima facie, an antiquated concept.
AllieHull , Mizzou strongly recommends picking up another major, or a minor.
johnrobinson Uh, I didn’t take a single journalism course in college. Learned all on job. Turned out OK.
gmarkham we offer a two-year diploma and a four-year degree. most of the newspaper-ready students leave after two.
cnewvine I hypothesize that requiring a 4-year degree is one of the ways newsrooms get out of touch with their communities.
eyeseast My journalism program was a minor, which I liked.
ehelm I liked the way Medill’s journalism major required so many non-journalism classes, including 2 concentrations outside J-school.
coolgates learning how to leverage technology should be a big part of the puzzle, too.
AllieG By far the most interesting and useful class I’ve taken so far was Ethics of Journalism.
mthilmony Didn’t have 2nd mjr. but I knew time in school was wasted – finished in 3 yrs. in journ. so i could get it done and get a job.
howardowens The best bloggers not only have degrees, they have experience, so maybe to cover courts, law degree and two years practice exp. Journalism degree, optional.