Is it stupid to major in journalism?

A funny thing about writing a blog for a long time is that sometimes you want to write a post … and you discover that you have already written it.

My original post (from two years ago) seems to be just as valid today: Why does anyone major in journalism?

So I read it and thought about whether there’s anything new to say. Yes. As the news industry continues to evolve, there are some new questions that should be asked:

  • Should the journalism curriculum include a required class about entrepreneurialism? That is, should students be required to study startup companies in the journalism field? Should they be required to pitch ideas for viable new enterprises as part of their coursework?
  • Should journalism students have the option to take courses centered on advocacy communications — the kind of writing, Web and mobile communications, video, etc., that are done by nonprofits and NGOs? I’m not talking about a traditional public relations course but rather something focused on nonpartisan issue-centered communications. Maybe it’s public interest communications; maybe it’s broader than that.
  • Can social media be used in classes to teach students how to identify and sound out audiences — so they know whether they are serving an audience well?

I still think it’s a smart move to major in journalism — if you have a real desire to communicate with audiences.

But I think we have some work to do to keep journalism education relevant. Nowadays that work needs to go further than just teaching kids how to report accurately and tell stories well. It goes beyond writing and beyond tools. I think there’s a whole set of thinking skills and idea generation and brainstorming that needs to become a part of the core curriculum.

6 Comments on “Is it stupid to major in journalism?

  1. At the Danish School of Media and Journalism journalistic entrepreneurialism is actually mandatory for all students in the last semester.

    And in the online journalism classes we need to include ideas on how to actually make money with our journalism.

    It’s a fairly new change. The argument seems to be that there aren’t enough jobs for all of us, so we need to create our own jobs. I think it’s a good point.

    Cheers, Troels (a Danish journalism student).

  2. A lot of school do seem to be embracing those new things – entrepreneurship classes, new ways of thinking/producing – unfortunately it’s often at the expense of those classes that are teaching students how to report and tell stories well. There’s got to be a happy medium, we’re just trying to find where is it.

  3. I work with a lot of J-school grads (both undergrands and master students) and am surprised how few know the monetary value of what they do. When they go to pitch freelance work or packages they think in final product rather than what it takes to actually produce it and the cost of running a freelance business. Suddenly the $1,000 assignment might only be worth $150 bucks profit and it can be hard to pay the bills if you don’t know how to think like the business hiring you. That said, they are usually sharp and eager and ready to learn and are’t afraid of new technology.

    I don’t think J-schools will ever be able to keep up with the fast change, but I feel a few more classes in real world economics and the business of the information would help.

  4. Hi Mindy, as a journalist and lecturer in journalism I believe that this is an exciting time for anyone involved in journalism and/or journalism education, but it requires constant analysis of what we are doing and what skills we are imparting. Journalism courses must look at not just the technological changes but also societal ones. In her analysis of the coverage of the economic meltdown Maria B Marron from Michigan University highlighted the fact that some of those reporting on finance and the economy had inadequate financial expertise and were reporting from the point of view of industry and not the citizen. Specialist reporting requires specialist knowledge and in future-proofing our journalism courses we may have to look at what kind of reporting best serves the societies we live in. If they are to remain ahead of the game, then our students should know how to follow the money, read the spreadsheets, use data journalism to throw up the anomalies that can really bring ‘truth to power’.
    Kate Shanahan Dublin, Ireland

  5. Pingback: Cool Links #109: Not Taken By The Rapture « TEACH J: For Teachers of Journalism And Media

  6. I think a journalism education can still be worthwhile. It should be coupled with some business and computer science classes. Journalism majors should also make an effort to take lots of courses in a particular area of interest, such as health or politics. In other words, take courses on subjects you would like to write about when you graduate.

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