Journalism is changing. A recent New York Times article discussed journalism schools’ struggle to expand their curricula to fit into the shifting landscape of modern journalism. Brian Stetler writes,
“At the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, on Arizona State’s Phoenix campus, and across the country, professors are hustling to figure out how to teach journalism at a time when the field is undergoing a sweeping transformation… The changes are forcing colleges and universities to rethink what a journalism education should look like. The perennial debate about journalism programs — theoretical teaching versus professional skill building — has been displaced by more urgent questions: How can you help students find sustainable business models, while introducing the formerly verboten subject of the business side? What are the implications for the craft of journalism in the shift to digital? And how do you position students for an uncertain future in the media?”
While it’s true that this is a time of great change for the journalism industry, I’m puzzled by the negative tone so many people seem to take when discussing the subject. This article did good job of talking neutrally about the shift from print to online journalism, but I feel like a lot of people see the present revolution as a bad thing. They are disappointed that newspapers are quickly becoming a thing of the past, and don’t know how to see the positive side of the revolution. It seems like there are considerably more articles focusing on the latest newspaper closing or the newest statistics on the lack of jobs in the journalism market than on the new opportunities created by the explosion of online journalism.
Just the other day, in my News Reporting class, my professor spent half the class period showing us depressing statistics about how it is becoming increasingly difficult to get a job in the journalism industry today. I walked out of that class thinking it had been a waste of time. What is the point of telling your students they are studying a subject that is quickly becoming obsolete? What is the point of basically telling us we won’t be able to get a job after graduation? And, most importantly, what is the point of telling us all of this and then offering no solutions? It made me want to change my major (but I didn’t, don’t worry).
Journalism schools, as the above article pointed out, need to make changes in the way they are teaching journalism. And indeed, many have made these changes. Instead of focusing on the dying newspaper industry, the schools need to shift with the industry and move their curricula online. Instead of providing their students with glum statistics about how they’ll never get a job at a newspaper, they need to show their students the statistics about how online journalism is exploding. Instead of teaching them just how to write for a newspaper, they need to teach them how to write for a newspaper, create websites, edit video, and so much more. With their Digital New Media track and requirements of web and print design for all JMC majors, the Creighton journalism department seems to have a good handle on the changing landscape of journalism.
I thought the article’s emphasis on the fact that journalism students might have to learn to create their own jobs was enlightening. I think it would be worthwhile for Creighton’s journalism department to add a class in journalism entrepreneurship/business (or maybe Creighton already has a class like this? I don’t know, this is my first semester at Creighton and I haven’t memorized the JMC curriculum). As the article said, journalism students need to be prepared to create their own jobs, and in order to do that, they will need to know a little bit about business. Arizona State’s Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship also sounds like a good idea. It helps students learn to market their projects and helps them build their portfolios. I think a similar program at Creighton would be warmly welcomed by the JMC students.
There will always be a demand for good journalism, whether or not it consumed in print or online or on television or blogs or Twitter or YouTube or whatever. I think the average American is savvy enough to know the difference between a blogger’s personal opinion and reputable journalism. It’s just a matter of the journalism industry (and thus, journalism schools) embracing the shift in technology and learning to take advantage of the medium bloggers and citizen journalists have already embraced.
P.S.- Since I am going into photojournalism, I would really love to hear a photographer’s take on the subject. It seems like most of the articles and opinions out there deal with news reporting and not photography… It would be interesting to see the situation from a different angle.