Take a trip in the way-back machine to visit the debate about journalism education a few decades ago. According to the progressives, j-schools that focused too much on skills, rather than theory, were nothing more than trade schools, grooming students for entry level jobs. Those who hammered on basic skills in the classroom were considered the dinosaurs.
Then came the so-called crisis in journalism (looking back, that seems ridiculous) close to ten years ago when many thinkers got together and revisited the debate. Most all agreed that the progressives were on the right track. Sure, technique is important, but it's the mission and purpose of journalism that needs to be front and center in the classroom. The purpose -- beyond knowing how to craft a lede in snappy prose and figuring out what belongs in that sacred real estate between the quotation marks -- should be to interrogate the profession itself, to paraphrase Mitchell Stephens, to question all that journalism could and should be.
But now it appears from this piece in New York Magazine -- cleverly titled "Columbia J-School's Existential Crisis" -- the debate has been upended. Those who cling to the fundamentals of journalism that can translate, ultimately, to most any platform are considered the dinosaurs. (Why is it that when j-profs focus on journalism itself, they are assumed to be pied pipers leading students off the cliff we used to know as newspapers?)
Those considered on the cutting edge are the profs who emphasize technique, who teach students how to blog and twitter and learn multi-media skills.
The article itself is just the jump-off point. Go to the comments, especially from the Columbia J-School students, to get a handle on the debate and see how it rages from those on the front lines.
My two cents? If you can't do the reporting, and learn why it matters, sound slides and tweets and 90 second videos probably don't matter much more than deliciously clever 30-word ledes. Getting the story comes first. How you deliver it, that's the gravy.
And p.s., you really don't need a class to learn how to blog. bk