Monday, December 29, 2008

choices, redux

This time to do with j-school. The timing of which may be appropriate since many of you are considering applications that are due, uh, next month?

Mayka forwarded this post from The Editorialiste that contains many pro/con linx. If you are seriously debating, read them all, especially the post itself. And click on the linx on the linx. and read the comments.

Among the best points by the anonymous author, who indeed went to j-school at Columbia, and who may inspire a deluge of last minute letter of rec requests for yours truly (but whatever...):

"...If there are things you want to do journalistically that you haven't had time to do elsewhere -- write a 3,000-word magazine feature, or craft a book proposal, or spend time practicing at pitching freelance pieces -- j-school is that safety net. It's a safety net made of your tuition dollars, of course, but the way I look at it, those tends of thousands of dollars are you buying yourself time to learn what you didn't know before.

Journalism school might teach you a little, but those who succeed in it are the ones that teach themselves even more. In other words: what you directly learn from classes is 33 percent of your journalism education.

The other 66 percent is getting a freelance pitch accepted or rejected, working all night against deadline, blowing a deadline, misquoting a source, quoting a source correctly and having that person remain unhappy with what they said, blowing past a word limit, being assigned the task of editing your own story, working with another reporter as green as you are on an assignment, and so on. J-school is one or two years of you buying yourself the time to do all of this. You're effectively putting a price tag on that experience, and last time I checked, it can run as high as $65,000."

1 comment:

Jack said...

The j-school price tag is an important one to consider (as my eyes just now glazed over upon seeing a tuition bill on my desk). It really all depends on what you're looking for.

As a Columbia j-school alum, I mostly agree with the anonymous commenter's opinion. I learned a lot of things when I was there, particularly because of tough professors (former editors) and the "lab" (NYC). It brought me out of my shell more and allowed me to learn a lot about computer-assisted reporting.

But I think j-school can fall flat on any "real-world" preparation. My best experiences -- and worst -- were in a metro newsroom, most via internships. Those are where I had my doozie corrections, where I had to deal with tough sources, where I had to meet deadlines upon which 10 other people relied. Sorry to say, but you don't get that important pressure in an Upper West Side classroom.

The best j-schools to apply to are also those that prepare you for the future, but not in a 21st century gimmicky way. Learning Flash and HTML is neat, sure, but learning how to sift through information -- uh, being a reporter -- is paramount. I focused my interests in CAR. But there are plenty other routes, including old-fashioned investigative journalism. (Wait, isn't all journalism investigative!)

If only we had more free happy hours. Now that's a selling point!