Saturday, July 18, 2009

J-Schools & B-Schools

Richard Sine, who writes for free (as do all HuffPo writers) over at the Huffington Post, wraps up his article "Close the J-Schools" (7/15/09) with the following sentiment:
"It dawned on me that the new business models that may save journalism were much more likely to come from the business school than the journalism school. At times I felt like closing down the J-school and sending most of those kids straight across campus, to the shiny new B-school."
While Mr. Sine is correct about the business models, closing down the journalism schools is a bad idea.
(Continued after the Jump)

The two core years of journalism classes instill in future journalists in ways few others can, the critical value of integrity, truth, and how to translate that to the written word. History of failed reporters' past, from plagiarism to just plain making stories up, are dissected. How to write a compelling story by deconstructing well written ones, and so on. The same holds true for photography schools, from Western Kentucky to Missouri, Syracuse, to RIT, to Brooks. All teach photography, and some specialize in photojournalism. Sine defends his suggestion of limiting enrollment or closing schools by saying "If you screw up, nobody dies, and nothing collapses." While true in a direct manner, it is indirectly not true. People take action all the time based upon reports in the press. When a city mayor is being criticized in the press for delays on a local construction project, he in turn could put undue pressure on those in charge who would have to take short cuts which could cause a collapse. Peoples' lives are changed over press reports, jobs lost (fairly or unfairly), and so on. Such is the power of the press. When a reporter or photographer picks up the tools of their trade and wields them under the constitutionally protected "free press" First Amendment, those people should have skills and training to wield that power.

Reporters and photographers as they are thrown into the freelance world, are going to have no choice but to follow common business practices and adhere to standards as simple as "income must exceed expense" or they will not be in journalism very long. The businesses that employ staffers are collapsing all around the country, because those at the top have no idea how to properly monetize their content in the "it should all be free online" mentality. As such, some remedial business school learning for the executives is in order, I'd think.

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