If I hear one more person tell me that journalism is dying, I might flip out. Yes, newspapers are flopping at a painstakingly high rate. The Chicago Tribune is essentially falling into a downward spiral. Minnesota’s own Star Tribune filled for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in early 2009 . I get it; newspapers and “traditional” journalism are on their way out.
Right now, I’m in a journalism course at the UW-Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, J676: Future of News, that analyzes the shift towards news in the digital sphere. Also, I’m in a class devoted to digital media buying and media planning. Although one class revolves around reporting while the other focuses solely on advertising, they both present me with the same core concept: anything and everything media related is changing at warp speed.
So as a student in a journalism program, you’d probably think that I’m crazy; that I won’t have a chance getting a job in the future because advertising and journalism are on their death bed. My life is ironic, however, and I actually have the polar opposite in terms of employment.
I have three jobs on top of an 18 credit schedule.
Yes, you heard it, 3.
All three of these jobs are comprised of the skills that I learned and have continually polished at through the UW journalism school. I write social media posts for a local yoga center, have a marketing internship through a non-profit student organization, and am now helping out as a social media coordinator for Madison Commons, which is a neighborhood news site run by faculty, graduated students and undergrads within the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Although I am technically pursing a professional career path in advertising and not reporting, I still feel that strong, ethical reporting is a key component for sustainable democracy.
Without my j -school education, I would be a horrible writer (sidenote: if there is a typo in this blog, it’s because I’m writing late at night with no sleep whatsoever and have no desire to copy edit right now). I wouldn’t understand how to write in HTML and CSS. And I certainly would be blind to the ethics behind writing. Believe it or not, I’m certain that the writing , editing and storytelling skills I learned (and still learn) from my reporting classes have made me a better strategic communicator. I’ve seen work from students at other schools who either go through a marketing program or an advertising program without any training in reporting – their work isn’t as strong or cohesive as portfolios and campaign strategies from my peers within the UW J School.
I, like most journalism students and faculty members, have butterflies churning in my stomach when I think about the future of journalism. As electronic innovation increases in speed (didn’t Steve Jobs host his third Keynote presentation within the last few months, right?), so does the way that we communicate. The Internet is still a barren land without established best practices for reporting. The way we report online changes consistently, and as information gathering systems like Google fold over into bigger webs of information, journalists need to reinvent their methods of presenting information. I think of the Internet as a large plot of undeveloped land; the boonies if you may. When we think that we’ve grounded ourselves , we discover a whole new area to develop and build.
The Internet is quite undeveloped.
So, what do I want to see in an journalism education? Well, here’s a short list for starters:
- Challenge students to use digital media. Don’t suggest using a blog to present information- instead, require them to create one. Make them understand the business behind reporting. Inform them of advertising practices that will help sustain journalism powerhouses from flopping.
- Make students speak and report in a language that’s uncomfortable to write about. No, I’m not referencing a foreign language like Spanish or French. Develop courses that help students speak with specific communities, ranging from high-power business circles on Wall Street to the nerds of innovation in California… and everyone else in-between. From my experiences as a student, I’ve found that combining my journalism education with a language that others speak (ie: the language of accounting acronyms from my friends in the Wisconsin School of Business) brings success because I know how to communicate with precision and get my point across.
- Give real world experience. Learning comes from failure, not from scratching lead onto a scantron multiple choice test sheet.