Students Question, Defend College Journalism & Journalism Education

In a pair of pieces appearing last Friday, students at separate schools investigated and passionately defended the value of college journalism and journalism education in the digital-mobile age.

For starters, there is Melanie Stone. The DePaul University j-student speaks bluntly in a Business Insider rantastic rundown aimed at justifying a single life choice: “Why I’m Majoring In Journalism Even Though Everyone Tells Me I Shouldn’t.” 

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Disagreeing with the assessment of New York Times media reporter David Carr that many modern journalism programs are “escalators to nowhere,” Stone seeks to undercut or at least end-run around the most common criticisms of the college journalism experience. The gist, from her perspective and research:

“Everyone is hating on journalism, and I’m tired of it. … [J]ournalism isn’t dead, nor is it dying. For those of us who have chosen this major, we’re headed into an industry that is alive and kicking. … [T]here’s more to a career in journalism than dollars and cents. Journalists see their work as a responsibility, a megaphone to the public, and they follow through with their commitment to inform — often, regardless of pay. … So don’t worry about me: I’ll have a job, and I will kick some serious butt doing it.”

By chance, on the same day as Stone’s journalistic butt-kicking, The Dartmouth called the whole shebang into question. For the first part of a planned two-part series — headlined “The College Journalism Question” — Dartmouth reporters Erin Landau and Hayley Adnopoz spoke to student journalists, professional journalists and journalism researchers for a range of thoughts on what student newspapers like theirs are and should be all about circa now.

College journalists’ weaknesses, according to experts cited in the article: a lack of short-term digital skills; a similar lack of long-term digital innovation; an over-adherence to an old-school news production routine; and not enough notable long-term reporting projects.

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Amid these shortcomings, student papers’ end goals remain the same and are still aligned fairly closely with their professional counterparts. A Dartmouth College English professor and magazine freelancer says it best:

“[Professional newspapers] inform readers — and hopefully there still are some — about what their government and large corporations are doing behind closed doors and investigate how people’s daily lives are affected by the dizzying forces of economic, cultural, environmental, political, sexual and religious change. College newspapers, too, can tackle these larger ideas. But often, they serve a different purpose. As a former college newspaper reporter and editor, I think that the purpose of a college newspaper is to capture the human landscape of the college through spirited, engaged coverage of culture, politics, sports and music, never shying away from covering difficult or confusing stories that college administrators might prefer not be addressed.”

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