The appearance of the problem
While most developing and developed nations have college and university courses in journalism, it is generally agreed that journalistic professionalism is in decline, worldwide.
Many professional journalists would agree with the above while maintaining that they and other “elite” journalists across print and broadcast media are the ones trying to uphold standards.
Perhaps this is the first problem: the “greats” are remaining in the field far, rather than moving into the role of lecturer, professor or tutor to future journalists.
We also must examine the students entering journalism. Many of those seeking out communication courses do so because they write and speak well, they are curious about wider social issues and they hold a certain level of idealism about the world they live in.
Many of these students will be deemed to not have the right “look” or “sound” for broadcast television and so will be relegated to becoming researchers, analysts, and copywriters. As the Internet takes the place of sound research and analysis, it becomes easier to bypass those trained in the field and simply cobble together opinion which is entertaining. So, how best to help those with innate ability compete in their field?
Reflection, correction, and re-trial
As with many tertiary courses, the challenge for journalism lies in providing students with sufficient work experience, followed by sufficient time back in the lecture hall, before graduation. Michael Stephens, a professor of Journalism at New York University, speaks to this in this short interview:
To expect students to carry all of their accumulating knowledge through the years of their course and apply it only after graduation, puts them at a disadvantage. In order to pad out students’ time, courses are filled with theory and observation, as indicated in this short video which details a basic course in journalism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EW8xJItJhw. Note how theory-heavy the course appears to be.
Missouri School of Journalism
Real-time learning: Journalism education appears to happen at a remove from lived experience. One answer to this would be to promote internships, where students bypass fulltime study and move straight into journalism, with their internships structured in such a way that they have time to study with a tutor and complete assignments, on company time. While this contradicts the financial “bottom line” approach of the industry, it would allow students to reflect on real-time learning.
A second option would be to build internships or “practice” into fulltime tertiary programs. This is standard in teaching, nursing, psychology, and drama.
Practicality over prestige
Journalism education faces the same challenge as other practical fields: remain relevant or die. Robert Rosenthal speaks beautifully to this in his TEDx talk:
While many employers continue to look for professional qualifications when hiring, the scope for skilled communicators to prove themselves as potential journalists without paperwork is widening as candidates direct recruiters to visit their well-established blogs, vlogs or read the perfectly edited pieces they’ve archived.
In order to maintain the prestige of a professional qualification, journalism education can offer something more: the opportunity to learn, reflect, correct and trial new thinking within the bounds of a course which teaches traditional journalistic ethics, while being curious about how to apply those ethics to social media and student’s lived experience in their chosen profession.