Nowadays it’s popular to knock journalism schools as unnecessary institutions that are producing young journalists who lack the real world experience to make it in today’s newsrooms. But in those halls of academia, young people with a passion for news are receiving the journalism training that fewer media organizations are able to provide.
The majority of journalism jobs require a minimum amount of experience, yet very few offer that experience to journalists at the beginning of their careers. Many newsrooms have internship programs that facilitate on-the-job training, yet more and more are cutting funding for these programs along with the jobs held by seasoned employees.
This leaves J-Schools to close the gap. Many journalism schools try to simulate the newsroom experience as best they can, requiring students to write or produce stories on deadline, as well as learn new forms of journalism and network with professionals who have seen the industry change and grow.
J-Schools now offer what many long time journalists wish they had available to them: exceptional multimedia skills training. The familiarity with technical journalism is increasingly the difference between the hireability of one candidate over another. And as much as they dare not admit, many recruiters are still impressed when they see Medill or Columbia on a résumé.
In the interest of full disclosure, I attended the UC Berkeley Graduate School where I received a degree in multimedia journalism. Before I attended Cal, I had no idea that multimedia journalism existed. I had been working as a crime reporter for some time, the violence of which was affecting me mentally, and decided to apply to grad school. It clearly was a life-changing decision.
Berkeley not only showed me my existing multimedia skills could be paired with my passion for writing, but it also put me in front of some of the pioneers of the new media movement, who I was in turn greatly inspired by (perhaps to write this blog?)
I implore veteran journos to take a look at the coursework of today’s journalism schools and see the rigorous training students are receiving. A student who has graduated from any of the esteemed J-Schools is equipped with the skills necessary to become an entry-level reporter. The “real world” skills should come in time.
If the current trend continues and every newsroom around the world slashes their internship programs, it will be up to the J-Schools to do what they have been doing for years: producing the next wave of competent journalists.
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