If you are a journalism student or are involved in teaching them, stop reading right now and go read this post by Mindy McAdams.
Everyone else, carry on below the fold.
- *McAdam’s post is about the continuing problem of journalism students who seem to aspire to work in some newsroom circa 1973:</p>
If a student in a j-school today thinks it is okay NOT to learn how to make Web pages, NOT to shoot video, NOT to gather audio, NOT to read and write blogs — then that student is not getting a message that is very, very necessary.
Now, let me hasten to say that some of those students are the very ones who are deliberately plugging their own ears and closing their eyes to reality. They are attached to a dream of becoming someone from the past — maybe photojournalist Eddie Adams, maybe gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson — a journalist who only took pictures or who only wrote …
She clearly holds her fellow journalism educators responsible for giving their students a reality check.
But that second part warrants attention, too: Why are journalism students apparently “closing their eyes to reality”?
It is a strange creature, the iPod-teatherd, MySpace-surfing, hip young hack who wants nothing more than to crank out copy on a Remington in time for the evening edition to go off-stone. Yet it seems to be a fairly common species. I’ve been
taking notes saving examples on del.icio.us.
In March 2006, Paul Conley talked to some journalism educators and they reported many sightings:
Teachers told me over and over again that their students were adamantly opposed to converging news operations at their schools. The print kids don’t like the TV kids; the Web kids don’t like the print kids, etc. The “cultures” don’t mix, so the products don’t mix and the students don’t develop multimedia skills. Remarkably, as one teacher pointed out, few print students actually “lived” in the world of old media. They all owned iPods. They snap photos with cell phones, communicate with Instant Messenger and join social-networking sites. Yet they expect to work in some sort of old-fashioned land of ink and paper.
More recently, Howard Owens, adding some useful comments to Steve Outing’s excellent advice for small newspaper web sites, said that hiring young journalists fresh out of university is not necessarily the solution to brining new skills into newsrooms:
I’ve run across far too many recent J-school grads that are as traditional in their thinking as any crusty old city editor you care to name
I’ve talked to other hiring managers about how hard it is to get recent J-school grads to take positions in the online departments — they all want to work for print. I’ve seen shiny new grads in newsrooms who won’t pick up a video camera or file a web-first story. It’s a pretty amazing phenomena. Instead, you need to develop an interview process that helps you discover who is really passionate about online.
Last autumn, I was heartened to discover a number of blogs by Cardiff University journalism students, who appeared to have been assigned to blog their impressions of a lecture series about new media. But some of the students occasionally exhibited a “bah, humbug” attitude to such crazy trends as blogging, podcasting and that great bugbear of someone spending a small fortune on a qualification, the uncredentialed “citizen journalist”.
One of their number, Chris Doidge, eventually took his fellow students to task for these attitudes:
Here at Cardiff (in my world) there are essentially three types of people. Broadcast journalists, magazine journalists and newspaper journalists.
… there seems to be a great deal of resistance to this from some (not all!) of the newspaper journalism students. Reading their blogs, and listening to them ask questions in lectures, it’s clear some are very defensive about the societal importance of newspapers.
It’s sort of sweet in a way. Some of their blogs talk about “traditional journalism” in reverential terms while quietly damning online journalism as if it’s a sin. Read between the lines and they can come across as very (small ‘c’) conservative.
But the strange fact is I’d be amazed if, in 20 years time, more than a fifth of them were working in print journalism …
Journalism isn’t about printing newspapers or broadcasting television programmes. It’s about stories — and finding the best way to tell them. So I have no idea where this romantic attachment to the printed word comes from.
It could have something to do with the fact that many journalism courses still force their students to choose between a “print” and an “broadcast” pathway, leading them to identify with one medium rather than thinking about identifying the best one for any particular message.
Update: Rob Curley adds his latest thoughts on this worrying subject, following up a post he wrote in November 2004:
… [S]ome of the most close-minded journalists I’d ever met were the young reporters straight out of J-School, and that I thought the blame for that should be shouldered by the programs that instilled that mindset.
Our industry has gone through a lot since I wrote that post, but I’m sad to say I still see much of that same near-disdain-for-new-media attitude in far too many of the younger reporters in our newspaper newsrooms. In fact, if we want to do something cool on one of our sites, we’re much more likely to get help from either a mid-career journalist or a senior reporter.
Newsrooms are getting smaller. My gut tells me that the journalists who are going to survive all of this recent goofiness will be the ones who are committed to the journalism, not the medium.