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Posts Tagged ‘J school’

Students hard at work in my class.

Students hard at work in my class.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a good article on how enrollment is up in J schools despite the continuing turmoil in the media industry. Of course, we’ve heard some of this before. But one point in the article that really resonated with me:

Any technological skill you teach them in 2009 will be obsolete by 2012, but we want them to understand that this is the beginning of a lifelong process they need to be open to.” (A quote from Bill Grueskin, dean of academic affairs at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism)

Couldn’t agree more.

Or, as American social writer and philosopher Eric Hoffer once wrote/said:

In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

Sound familiar?

And to be fair, this doesn’t apply just to the journalism world — many industries have had a tough time adjusting to technology (Record labels? Meet Napster. Blockbuster? Meet Netflix. Brick-and-mortar retail? Meet EBay, Amazon, etc.).

This lifelong learning process … I suppose you could view it as a never-ending burden. I prefer to think of it as a discovery that doesn’t end.

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It’s one of those headlines that elicits an inner “uh-oh.”

Salon today posted a commentary headlined “Let’s be honest about J-school.” I thought it was going to be a piece that basically took the stance that journalism school wasn’t worth it, especially given the turmoil going on now.

Instead, it took an even approach on the pros and cons of journalism school, undergrad vs. grad, which schools are the best, and other learning options.

Still, the overriding message was that many schools have out-of-date programs, which in turn don’t prepare students for these turbulent and increasingly digital times.

Of course, the piece resonates with me because I’m in the middle of preparing for my first semester of teaching online journalism at SFSU (in addition to doing my job as tech editor at The Chronicle). And the question that keeps me up at night is: How can I make my students battle ready? It’s pretty ugly out there (did you happen to see the photo of the cake in my earlier post?)

My favorite bit from the piece was this:

Do not under any pretext attend journalism school — undergrad or graduate — with the mission of working for a large metro or some other established, old-media publication. While you may be able to get a job at one of those, don’t count on it. Not for a second.

If you had a chance today, would you attend j school? And would your goal be to work for a large metro or some other established pub?

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Hold the outrage -- inside joke. Plus, "John" left voluntarily.

A farewell cake from earlier this year (and hold the outrage -- the cake writing is an inside joke. Plus, this editor volunteered for the buyout).

About a week ago, I had the depressing task of collecting company property (laptop, cell, card key) from a reporter of mine — one of four veteran journalists leaving that day as part of the newsroom’s downsizing.

I know I’m not alone in wishing to never see another farewell cake again (in fact, this last group of departees requested there be no cake, no newsroom sendoff, nothing). But there’s no telling what the future holds, although amid all the doom and gloom, there have been some positive signs of hiring (or indications of hiring to come), and one report that forecast a 2.4 percent rebound in revenues for newspapers next year. (Of course, most forecasts didn’t see the economy falling to pieces, but track record aside, we’ll gladly grasp onto any thread of hope at this point.)

So, assuming you would teach journalism (and I’ve heard from some who’ve said they wouldn’t for one reason or another), how would you approach the class? Dump the textbooks and make the students read Mashable, MediaShift and BuzzMachine? Require everyone to have an iPhone 3GS, the most versatile device for online journalism? Or do away with the terms “journalism,” “media” and “news” altogether, as Wired’s Chris Anderson suggests, because, you know, they sound so old fartish compared to tweets, apps and fwops (OK, I made up the last word, or, I thought I did until I found 2 definitions for it on Urban Dictionary, one of which is almost appropriate).

So what say you? Anyone dare to offer up their ideas for teaching journalism for the digital age? All ideas, even from non-journalists, are welcome …

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