I unlearned everything I learned in kindergarten in j-school

Jay Rosen, back from a journalism educators’ confab, writes about what he used to teach but doesn’t now. A few of his bullets:

* I used to teach it implicitly: journalism is a profession. Now I think it’s a practice, in which pros and amateurs both participate. There were good things about the professional model, and we should retain them. But it’s the strength of the social practice that counts, not the health of any so-called profession. That is what J-schools should teach and stand for, I believe. I don’t care if they’re called professional schools. They should equip the American people to practice journalism by teaching the students who show up, and others out there who may want help.

Yes, and so we need to rethink how we look at the schools and their mission just as we look at the news organizations and their missions. More on this soon.

* I used to teach that the ethics of journalism, American-style, could be found in the codes, practices and rule-governed behavior that our press lived by. Now I think you have to start further back, with beliefs way more fundamental than: “avoid conflicts of interest in reporting the news.” If you teach journalism ethics too near the surface of the practice, you end up with superficial journalists.

* The ethics of journalism begin with propositions like: the world is basically intelligible if we have accurate reports about it; public opinion exists and ought to be listened to; through the observation of events we can grasp patterns and causes underneath them; the circle of people who know how things work should be enlarged; there is something called “the public record” and news adds itself meaningfully to it; more information is good for it leads to greater awareness, which is also good; stories about strangers have morals and we need to hear them, and so on. These are the ethics I would teach first….

* Alas, I used to teach that the world needs more critics; but it was an unexamined thing. Today I would say that the world has a limited tolerance for critics, and while it always needs more do-ers, it does not always need more chroniclers, pundits, or pencil-heads.

  • penny

    IMHO, journalism school is an oxymoron. The best journalists never attended one – Twain, Mencken, Mike Royko, Ernie Pyle, etc. A good journalist, be it anyone reporting any event, needs a sense of fairness, a lack of bias and the verbal talent to craft the facts in a readable manner. It’s not rocket science.

    What is threatening to the professional journalist guild today is that talent is arising outside the guild on the internet, readership is flowing in that direction, and their monoply is eroding.

    It can’t happen fast enough.

  • EverKarl

    Alas, I used to teach that the world needs more critics; but it was an unexamined thing. Today I would say that the world has a limited tolerance for critics, and while it always needs more do-ers, it does not always need more chroniclers, pundits, or pencil-heads.

    Jay Rosen: irony-free!

  • http://www.musiccherry.com Fenton

    Focusing on the ethos behind what you do is important because it creates trust. That’s one reason Craig’s List made out so well from the start.

    “Journalism,” right now, doesn’t have much trust from anyone. We tolerate it. I trust anonymous posters on Craigslist far more than I trust most journalists.

  • http://www.themarketinggene.blogspot.com Stan DeVaughn

    Having a Internet access doesn’t make somebody a “journalist” anymore than owning a wrench makes you a plumber, or knowing the ingredients of a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich makes you a chef.

  • http://www.scoopstories.typepad.com Scott Butki

    I wrote my response to Jay’s piece here, explaining how his comments fit itno my career change from journalism to education:
    http://www.scoopstories.typepad.com

    Also I wanted to invite Jeff and everyone over for a debate about Fox and Outfoxed at my blog

  • http://www.mamacitaonline.com Joan Conde

    Thanks for this great post. I wanted to touch base with you about your last comment, which is the most important to me: the world needs more “doers.” Yes, and this begins with good thinking, and good re-thinking. Doing requires risk-taking, confidence, and creativity. I’m new to blogging, the above address is my zine. My blog is located at http://mamacita.typepad.com.

  • ernest ramirez

    some nice statements/for example, teach the students who show up…good point for presence is required for journalism to be real…thank you/09-18-2006