Monday, April 20, 2009

NY Times: "Digital defeats newsroom?"

"You mean... J is dead!?"

The Sunday New York Times has a great story in its "Education Life" supplement today about journalism schools and what they should teach, given the digital crisis facing newsrooms.

Written by Brian Stelter, the great article has a suitably great lead:
"In his second month as a professor at Arizona State University, Tim McGuire was standing in front of 13 students teaching “The Business of Journalism” when his inner voice interrupted. “You dummy,” he recalls thinking, “you are teaching a history course.”
The article then makes the case that J schools should "help students find sustainable business models" for journalism, and - somehow, at the same time - "position students for an uncertain future in the media."

Despite the questions circling around the future of journalism, the article says that enrollment in J schools is up. At Red River College, where I teach, we've never had less than a full load of Creative Communications students, and the number of this year's applications is up.

As the guy who marks the resume/essay combo for each and every applicant, I can say that I've never seen more qualified and experienced applicants competing to get in.

However, I believe that Red River College's Creative Communications program has a big advantage over traditional J schools: it offers students a more diverse education with majors in advertising, PR, and broadcast, in addition to journalism.

But could it be even more diversified?

As I've said before: I'm in favor of getting rid of "majors" or "streams" and having our students learn "everything." As I say in the linked article, I know from my freelance work that clients want and expect a full new-media approach: Facebook, Blogger, WordPress, Twitter, YouTube, craigslist, and more.

Why should we limit their knowledge when the new model for being a communications professional involves being "the king or queen of all content" and being able to manage and communicate that content to readers, viewers, or publics, as the case may be?

Just like a diversified portfolio is the best way to earn money over the long term, my argument goes, so too is a diversified education the best bet for career success over the long term. So, if paid journalism doesn't work anymore, do PR.

Says the Times piece:
"Public relations students take many of the same classes as broadcast and print journalists, which inspires some gallows humor in the hallways. (Student) Alyssa Aalmo recently printed out a poster and hung it in her apartment. It says: “Want stability in journalism? Get a job in P.R."
This quote alone seems to have got the blogosphere all aTwitter. As a PR instructor, however, I must say that I couldn't have put it better myself.

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