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Journalism schools behind the times

Alana Taylor is in J-school at NYU and is not happy with the way she gets unprepared and mis-prepared by the old-timey professors for the journalism of the future:

What is so fascinating about the move from print to digital is the freedom to be your own publisher, editor, marketer, and brand. But, surprisingly, NYU does not offer the kinds of classes I want. It continues to focus its core requirements around learning how to work your way up the traditional journalism ladder. Here is the thinking I find here:

1. Get an internship at a magazine or newspaper. “This is good for your resume.”
2. Bring the New York Times to class. The hard copy. “It’s the only way to get the news.”
3. Learn how to write for a magazine or newspaper. “Writing for blogs or websites is not journalism.”
4. Become an editor at a magazine or newspaper. “This is the only respectable position.”

Obviously, I am being a bit facetious here, but the truth of the matter is that by the time my generation, Gen Y, gets into the real world there will be a much higher demand for web-savvy writers and thinkers than traditional Woodwards and Bernsteins.

I was hoping that NYU would offer more classes where I could understand the importance of digital media, what it means, how to adapt to the new way of reporting, and learn from a professor who understands not only where the Internet is, but where it’s going.


Again, I don’t expect her to be an expert on the world of social media, but for some reason I am unsettled at the thought of having a teacher who is teaching me about the culture of my generation. For example, she said one of the character traits of our generation was an unwillingness to interact with people face to face because we “spend so much time online.”

In my experience, the Baby Boomers often think the Quarterlifers are anti-social because they socialize on Facebook and MySpace. I would argue that we actually spend more time interacting with others than the previous generation who didn’t have many forms of communication and typically spent more time sitting in front of the television or with a couple of the same old friends. For our generation it’s easier to get in touch, organize a meetup, throw together a party, ask someone out on a date.

Is it better at other J-schools? How about UNC?

[Hat-tip: Jay on FriendFeed]


  1. #1 Alan Knight
    September 6, 2008

    Alana Taylor’s interesting report might have benefited from conventional journalist practices; sourced interviews, references to documents etc..
    Sadly part of the problem with bloggers (and too many journalists) is that they confuse unsourced opinion with fact.
    It’s true that traditional journalists are finding it difficult to deal with he way the internet challenges their erstwhile supremacy even as it takes their revenue base.
    However, the best of the journalism schools recognise what’s happening and are creating new online streams of study and practice.
    Journalists have always adapted to emerging communications technologies from the telegraph, to the telephone, to radio to television to satellite broadcasts. The internet provides new opportunities to self publish, research and interact. But does this mean that the guts, intelligence and courage displayed by Woodward and Bernstein are out of date?
    I don’t think so.

  2. #2 Coturnix
    September 6, 2008

    That was a blog post. She states that she writes differently when writing for a traditional venue. While J-schools are trying hard to catch up, her personal experience suggests that it is not always and everywhere succeeding.

  3. #3 dajokr
    September 7, 2008

    I’m not a journalist but I can at least speak to your question about UNC’s JoMC: I’ve been invited for the second year to lecture on the value of science and medical blogging for journalists in the UNC M.S. program in Medical Journalism. Program director, Tom Linden, MD, comes from a traditional broadcast media background but recognized very early the power of Web-based health communication – his book with Michelle Kienholz, Dr. Tom Linden’s Guide to Online Medicine came out in 1995. Blogger extraordinaire, Anton Zuiker, was an early graduate of that program.

    Online journalism, digital multimedia, and other Web-based coursework and professional development opportunities permeate the curriculum and the school even boasts a compendium of faculty blogs (http://jomc.unc.edu/blogs) including those by Dean Jean Folkerts, Dr. Linden, and our friend, The Real Paul Jones. When the Dean has her own blog, you know that sets the tone for the rest of the school.

    I suggest that Ms. Taylor consider transferring to UNC’s JoMC.

  4. #4 literarydeadkittens
    September 27, 2008

    My first thought when reading this was that this student could perhaps break in some new ground in this area, perhaps setting up an informal ‘class’ in a forum with other students where they can share their ideas on virtual journalism.

    At some point the transistion has to be made to encompass the changing zeitgeist and who better than Gen Y themselves who have grown up immersed in the virtual culture?

    Requiring the students to have their own blog sounds like cheap lip-service to the virtual media instead of a real attempt to encompass it. Now that IS an opinion :)

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