News of the death of newspapers never stops. A LinkedIn analytics post showed that newspapers are the fastest shrinking industry in terms of job numbers. The Newspaper Association of America released statistics that showed ad sales were down 7.3 percent in 2011. On his blog, Alan D. Mutter added some more dismal facts—the last time ad sales were this low was 1984, and the combined ad sales of all U.S. newspapers equal only two-thirds of that of Google. Though digital advertising increased 6.8 percent, it still failed to make up the 9.2 percent loss of print.
And so, Robert Niles at the Online Journalism Review asked a pertinent question, “Is any university in America still admitting students as print journalism majors?”
Journalism majors are still alive and well, but not immune to the cries of the death of newspapers. As a journalism major myself, I’ve heard plenty of guest speakers, working journalists who talk to a class of journalism hopefuls and say, “there is no money to be made in journalism.” This has always been confusing—who goes into journalism to “make money?” Isn’t that what finance majors are for?
On a positive note, Niles points out that the Internet and online publishing are in the top three growing industries and they are the future of journalism education. But that does not mean a degree in print journalism is outdated, writing and reporting is as important as ever. Still, the question remains, is getting a journalism degree worth it?
Yes, in my opinion. Perhaps, as Niles writes, journalism schools focus on training over scholarship, but journalism is already a scholarly endeavor of sorts, well suited for the curious. News savvy is important in our world today, and what better place to learn it than J-school? But is this opinion overly idealistic, not taking account of the practical fact that newspapers are shedding the most jobs the fastest?
Perhaps, but I still think a journalism degree is valuable, if not for the degree, for the skills. The ability to write well is valuable in a multitude of industries. The ability to report is valuable to all sorts of different interactions—learning how to ask the right questions is part of any college experience. Young people will have a digital mindset as a virtue of their environment, and will naturally help bridge the cultural divide between print and digital, a source of contention in many newsrooms. And in today’s world where college is treated as more of an investment and less of a learning experience, we might need a bit of idealism from the students who choose to study journalism.