I’m on a committee withÂ aÂ fewÂ journalists andÂ public relations folks rethinking how to teach the various disciplines within communications. We areÂ not alone. A lengthyÂ article from InsideHigherEd.com describes a panel discussion onÂ how the elite journalism schools are rethinking their missions –Â up to a point, as the article notes:
“One question that panelists didnâ€™t consider in any depth was whether journalism schools were needed in the first place. Itâ€™s a “non-dialectical issue,” said Carnegieâ€™s president, Vartan Gregorian. “The fact is, we have to live with reality,” he added: Theyâ€™re here, so the question should be how to reform them.”
Step one, cut output. I graduated the J-schoolÂ at ColumbiaÂ University in 1991. It was a great experience and IÂ found a job. But even thenÂ I felt j-schools overproduced.Â Guest speakers came throughÂ often and oneÂ graduate of the 1950s eraÂ said he and his peersÂ took summers off before taking job.Â We had no such expectation in 1991.Â We competed for internships. His class size was under 100. Mine wasÂ a bit over 200.
TheÂ irony isÂ that 301,621,157 Americans could befit from some journalism education. That’s the entire population. Nowadays anyone can be a journalistÂ through a blog or a social network. Most of that will be at the level of the high school paper or church bulletin. But utimatelyÂ this will be tremendously good because as more people create media, they will be less gullible and more aware of how situations can be spun.Â
If I seem calm about this possibleÂ transformation it’s becauseÂ I’ve been through it before. In the 1980s I was a professional typographer.Â Desktop publishing decimated that profession and hurt my business.Â At the time I thought designÂ heathens, drunk with the ability to mix and match fonts, wouldÂ ravage the printed page.Â ButÂ now that my livelihood is not at issueÂ IÂ rather like howÂ design has evolved.
Today professionalÂ journalism faces amateur competition. But it needn’t be adversarial. I think the prosÂ should mentor citizens journalists. FormÂ them into a newsÂ militia.Â The most interested segment of the public wants to get more involved. They are the opinion leaders who willÂ can us more deeply into their communities — if we allow them to get a little bit closer to our hallowed editorial operations.
Â How can the elite j-schools help in this evolution of a hybrid journalism? Because to paraphrase Vartan Gregorian, I think it will happen and journalists will have to deal with it.