The insider peek at Columbia’s j-school

The memo from Columbia j-school dean Nick Lemann has been discussed by several people already (see for example Charlie Beckett and Jeff Jarvis) — but it’s so incredibly long, even more remains to be said.

The most important change in our skills-oriented Master of Science program has been adjusting its curriculum in response to the rapid onset of the Internet as the dominant delivery medium for journalism. In 2008, for the first time, all our students will have participated in building Web sites in classes, and our New Media major is growing rapidly. This year we created three new sections of an elective New Media course, and began requiring all sections of our basic skills course, RW-1, to operate Web sites and all students to learn the rudiments of gather audio and video material for the Web. This has been a large and expensive effort, and I hope it is only the beginning.

This might give heart to all the other, less wealthy j-schools in the United States — even Columbia had not yet stepped up and made online journalism a requirement until 2008!

Of course, the fact that they still call it “new media” 18 years after the invention of the World Wide Web is a bit worrying.

We have redesigned most of the fall-term core curriculum in our M.S. program; for example, all students now are required to learn at least some of the history of journalism. We have just signed an agreement to launch our first dual degree program with a non-U.S. institution, the new journalism school at Sciences Polytechnique in Paris. We hope to set up four or five similar arrangements around the world, and to use these as a way of expanding our reach internationally. We are in the process of an extensive review of our Ph.D. program, and we have hired two new faculty members to work primarily with our Ph.D. students.

This all sounds like good news for future Columbia students. On the whole, however, Lemann’s memo makes me wonder about the recent past and whether those debt-ridden journalism students in New York have been getting their money’s worth. Not that Columbia has done a poor job — far from it. The memo points out, though, that a lot of changes have been made to bring the program up to par for the 21st century, and still more changes are needed.

3 Comments on “The insider peek at Columbia’s j-school

  1. Pingback: BuzzMachine » Blog Archive » Lemann links

  2. It sounds like my decision to not get a masters in journalism was a sound one. Most programs don’t have much to offer students right now. I think it’s going to be a few years before the dust settles and some of the major programs really get their acts together.

    It does sound like Columbia is starting to turn things around, but I can only imagine paying tens of thousands of dollars (or hundreds) to get a degree from Columbia only to find out that you didn’t learn many of the skills you needed.

    If I do go back to school, I’m pretty sure it won’t be in journalism this time.

  3. Pingback: What’s going on? « J-School Today: Discussions on journalism education

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.