Monday, March 29, 2010

Wither J-school?

I find most of the stories, posts and debates about the future of journalism school tiresome, but sometimes there's one that catches my eye.

Thus, I recommend that you read Chris Lynch's post "What the reader elite means for journalism schools."

First, he approaches the subject from a fresh angle - the potential creation of a "reader elite" as information goes behind paywalls and (we think) stays there. (No guarantee of that, of course.) Lynch's take is that this elite is going to be better educated and more in tune with expertise journalism than with the disinterested observer model. Not sure I totally buy it; I think there will be a mix. But I definitely think young journalists are going to have to develop some kind of informational (not technology) specialty.

Second, the long thread of comments afterward has not degenerated into the usual flame-fest but has many well-reasoned (and just as passionate) opinions that make this truly a multidimensional post worth reading.



At 3/29/10, 12:07 PM, Anonymous Joe said...

There's nothing original about saying "journalism is dying and so are journalists and journalism schools."

He's over-simplistic about the situation, and besides his two arguments don't coexist. He argues you should report the news with bias, but also that you can somehow make money doing it, even though he states explicitly that news delivery is dying.

At 3/29/10, 12:10 PM, Anonymous Joe said...

And as for the idea that journalists need to specialize, this has always been the case, a la Michael Lewis. If a guy doesn't have direct experience and then work in media like Lewis did, they often cover one beet for years, learning the ins and outs of it.

As for the "well an expert could have blown the whistle on the sub-prime mess" argument he made: if CEOs of banks making millions of dollars a year didn't see it coming, I doubt very much that journalists with finance degrees (which, by the way, already exist) were going to very simply call this whole thing in 2004.

At 3/29/10, 12:31 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

I disagree with you. I think he gives us a new prism to consider it through. And I think to some extent he is extending the prescient and valid observations Michael Crichton made in "Mediasaurus" many years ago.

I do disagree that j-schools are useless or completely dying. But I do think there will continue to be uneasy years as we figure out how to accomplish this on campus.

One of the dirty little secrets is that so many of these "depth" courses he talks about elsewhere on campus give little practical knowledge. I have students who tell me they learn more in one semester of my public affairs reporting class than they do in several semesters of poli sci (and I'm a former poli sci/econ major - astrophysics minor (don't ask)), so I have some experience in coming to journalism from elsewhere).

My deepest concern right now is that anything in this country that is not science/math/engineering is getting short shrift. I saw it in my kids' high school education (both have since graduated college). That's troubling. We see it in the way funds are flowing to colleges, too, both from legislatures that see those areas as job generators and from federal grant programs that heavily favor such areas, and that many public schools are depending on to keep them afloat as their state funds are cut.

At 3/30/10, 4:45 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

Several people have questioned my use of "wither" vs. "whither." It was a deliberately chosen play on words.


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