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J-Schools / Journalism degrees "worthless?"

juxtaposnjuxtaposn 397 replies49 threads Member
edited July 2007 in Graduate School
Michael Lewis, former senior editor for the New Republic, published an article in 1993 titled J-School Ate My Brain, which has since become a pretty famous criticism of the curriculum taught at journalism schools. It's a long read, but it's interesting (and pretty funny, too). The gist is that, by focusing on journalism theory rather than on journalism in practice -- by unnecessarily complicating the art of the craft -- J-schools stifle innovation, hurt graduates' job prospects, and generally produce bad writers.

Lewis isn't alone: this Slate article reiterates and expounds upon many of the criticisms made in "J-School Ate My Brain," and even a few CC posters (namely Bedhead) have echoed anti-j-school sentiments. I've thought about pursuing journalism professionally and have considered J-schools like Berkeley's and Columbia's, but I'm not sure what to think after reading these articles. To those in the journalism field: what is your take? Are these criticisms accurate?

Some highlights from the articles:
slate wrote:
I'm convinced that if all the programs in journalism—undergrad and graduate—disappeared tomorrow, America's newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters wouldn't miss a beat of the news cycle.
slate wrote:
The ASNE survey found that only 10 percent of newsroom employees hold J-school graduate degrees, and I defy any member of the professoriate to identify a journalist's credentials by the quality of his work. When I read the r
edited July 2007
3 replies
Post edited by juxtaposn on
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Replies to: J-Schools / Journalism degrees "worthless?"

  • sacsac 1528 replies19 threads Senior Member
    The J schools you mentioned are both nuts-and-bolts oriented, and set their students up well for internships, which is the basic route into journalism. Students who did a lot of undergrad journalism on campus publications and moved from there into summer internships at major news organizations may not need J-school. On the other hand, news organizations don't teach. They expect you to hit the ground running. J-school could give you skills in a variety of media, which is the name of the game these days. In other words, it will not hurt you, as long as you avoid the programs that are more about "communications" than journalism, meaning either about public relations or about studying the media. The question is whether J school is a worthwhile investment.

    This whole argument, however, is basically from another era. People used to go to small newspapers or small tv stations and work their way from there to major markets. That's why relatively few had journalism degrees. But I just wouldn't know what to tell someone going into journalism today. I don't know a print publication that isn't laying people off left and right, or a town that isn't in danger of losing its newspaper. I don't think J schools have any more clue than anyone else about how it will all shake out. Advice on journalism from 1993 might as well be from 1893. It's a whole new world out there.
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  • PseudonomdeplumePseudonomdeplume 22 replies0 threads New Member
    Are the criticisms accurate? I would say that they're fair and something that you should consider.

    Should you go to J-school? I don't know. Some people I've known who went to J-school say it was good for them. Others say it wasn't such a great thing.

    BedHead and I have talked a lot about J-school.

    Here: http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/showthread.php?t=314306

    And here: http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/showthread.php?t=32793
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  • MeehanMeehan 14 replies3 threads New Member
    I recently graduated with a bachelors in journalism and I am currently attempting to get into a Master's program. I personally would not go to J-school. At this point it is mainly because I am a little tired of the theoretical aspects of journalism altogether and also because I feel I could take another internship and basically learn/network just as much as I could in J-school. However, I have a friend who is at Berkeley right now and he loves it. He said they have a lot of creative freedom and are utilizing multimedia reporting more than he anticipated. Whatever your decision, just make sure you are sure about it. That's a lot of money...
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