Journalism schools are, in general, overpriced elitist anachronisms with no compelling reason to exist in their current form. So it makes sense that they're both shrinking and changing. The only thing staying the same: desperate justifications of their own existence.
Inside Higher Ed today looks at the changes being made to USC's J-school program: its masters degree program is being compacted from two years down to one, and they're rolling out a buzzwordy “digitally converged newsroom” that will, they hope, convince students that $56,867 is a fair price to pay to learn how to type things on the internet.
The entire professional journalism industry is shrinking. The barrier to entry to online publishing is virtually nil. J-school is A) less necessary than ever for professional training purposes and B) a worse investment than ever. Journalism schools themselves know that, which is why they're scrambling to remake themselves. But they still need a new crop of students every year to pay those bills! What is the very latest J-school justification sophistry, USC Annenberg School of Journalism director Michael Parks?
While some have debated whether a graduate degree in journalism is really worth that much, Parks argued that journalism schools could be more important than ever, because employers no longer have the time nor the resources to train their journalists. They want candidates who already know what they’re doing when they walk into the door, and journalism schools make their students competitive candidates by giving them skills and professional experiences, Parks said.
“Do you need a journalism school to become a journalist? No. I didn’t,” said Parks, whose first job was at the Detroit News in 1962, where he was “taught journalism” by the city editor. “But I think I would have trouble going into any newsroom today with a degree in classics.”
Perhaps Michael Parks would have trouble going into any newsroom today with a degree in classics that he earned prior to 1962, before the internet was invented. But the average twentysomething today grew up online and probably has a pretty decent understanding of how to type words into the little box on Twitter and hit the "Tweet" button. #HASHTAGJOURNALISM
Look, I'm not knocking J-school people for trying to hang onto their cash cow. They have the best job in journalism! If I had a sweet j-school gig (I'm available!) I'd be trying to lure these kids in left and right, too. But the fact is that J-school is a terrible investment. Kids fresh out of J-school don't "know what they're doing when they walk into the door" any more than any other first-day employee. J-school will just leave you in a financial hole. Writing sponsored content for PR firms: now that's where the money is in media these days. No knowledge required.