Sunday, September 27, 2009

more thoughts on j-school

The Chronicle Of Higher Education reports that applications to Journalism programs have spiked -- despite the uncertainty of the industry.

The piece also reports on the efforts of many programs to build multi-media skills, which may be an attraction to many prospective students. But the piece also addresses the problems inherent in over-emphasizing the process at the expense of journalism values, especially when rapid changes in technology might render obsolete on the job anything a student learns at school. From the piece:

Ari L. Goldman, a professor of journalism at Columbia, says basic skills like accuracy and fairness are more important than ever at a time when inexperienced reporters are rushing to post news updates on the Web, often with little editorial oversight.

"I don't want us to lose focus on the standards of good journalism in our rush to embrace all the latest technology," says Mr. Goldman, who wrote for The New York Times for 20 years.

"I want to give students a consciousness that there's a need to be thorough and not just be first—to consider the importance of fact-checking, copy editing, spelling, and grammar, and to make sure they are armed with all those tools as they write and put things on the Web."

[Barbara B. Hines, president of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication] of Howard, says journalism professors are struggling to integrate constantly changing multimedia skills into already jammed curricula without sacrificing attention to the nuts and bolts of good journalism.

If technology is overemphasized, she says, "students will be whizzes at singing and dancing and making the equipment work, but they may not understand why zoning is important in a community, or how a city council functions."

Michael J. Bugeja, director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, at Iowa State University, agrees.

"Many journalism schools, to please industry, started creating courses that were merely about presentation, and they forgot about content," says Mr. Bugeja, who would rather see most technological training take place on the job.

"Too often, when the technology is overemphasized in the curriculum, it gives the impression that you can do journalism sitting down in your pajamas," he says. "You can't do that."

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