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Teaching Online Journalism

Should you major in journalism now?

Like any savvy blogger, I look at my blog stats from time to time. The stats tell me a lot of people come to this blog because they are searching for information about how to become a journalist, what to study, and whether it’s smart to be a journalism major.

I teach about online journalism in one of the largest journalism programs in the United States, and I’ve been doing that since 1999. So I do have a strong opinion about this. I have written my opinions here before (see the link list below), but here’s a quick summary:

  1. People won’t hire you because you have a degree. They will hire you because you can demonstrate real skills.
  2. The skills that are needed do include writing (still), but that means correct, reliable, professional writing, along with the ability to find and maintain a focus, tell a story, use words correctly and well, and not require an editor to put the commas in for you.
  3. All journalism is now digital. So you need to be able to demonstrate digital skills.
  4. The digital skills that are in highest demand are the skills to create, to produce. Not to consume.
  5. If you’re not learning how to create and produce digital journalism, you’re not gaining marketable skills.
  6. If you’re shopping for a journalism degree program in which to enroll, you must look at the names and descriptions of the courses taught in that program. Use the Internet, for heaven’s sake. Use Google. Read.
  7. Not all journalism degree programs (at either the bachelor’s or master’s degree level) are the same. In fact, they vary a lot. Some are great. Some are terrible. Many fall in between.
  8. While you’re Googling, look up the professors and other teachers who are on the faculty and teaching those classes. What are their qualifications? What are their real-world skills?
  9. Teachers and classes cannot make you skillful if you do not add to what is taught.
  10. You cannot learn journalism without real work experience: working inside real newsrooms and media companies is required. (Another way to say this: Students who don’t do internships don’t get jobs.)

If you reject any of the 10 points above, then probably you should just forget about majoring in journalism.

If you’re still on board, then go out and do some more Googling about the state of journalism today. What do you know about this business? What do you know about journalism jobs?

Can you learn a lot of really useful stuff as a journalism major? YES.

Will you learn a lot if you major in journalism? That’s up to you.

Related posts:

You should also look at Nieman Journalism Lab’s new series, The Evolution of Journalism Education. My article there: Don’t just teach skills, train young journalists to be lifelong learners.


Categories: ideas, jobs, teaching


2 Comments

  1. Mu Lin says:

    Well said. In terms of how to choose a journalism programs and what skills to acquire, I just wrote a post about what a “forward-looking” digital journalism program should look like:

    A digital journalism program should merge conventional tracks (print/broadcast), incorporate multiple digital journalism courses, and offer selected beats for students to develop in-depth knowledge on specific topics.
    http://www.mulinblog.com/2012/09/29/digital-journalism-class/

  2. Good post, Mu. Readers should also check out Mu’s map of digital or multimedia journalism degree programs in the U.S.:

    http://www.mulinblog.com/multimedia-journalism-programs/

    (Scroll down to see the map on that page.)

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