: We’re suddenly hearing much debate about about the future of journalism schools — following (though perhaps it should be leading) — the debate about the future of journalism.

But the discussion I’ve heard so far has focused exclusively on journalism students and professional journalists and has left out a vital constituency: the public.

Just as the definition of news is expanding, so should the definitions of journalist and journalism … and journalism education.

As citizens practice journalism, they need to be let into the cathedral before they come and tear it down.

Big, old, professional, traditional, mainstream news media should support — rather than exclude — these citizens with content, promotion, training, and revenue. They must do this to support the practice, the expansion (yes, expansion), and the business of journalism.

And, so, journalism schools should help support these citizen journalists, or they risk being left out of the future of journalism.

Journalism schools can train citizens in tricks of the trade (and remember: it is just a trade): How to get access and information, how to write and package, how to use tools, how to research, how to vet and verify.

But journalism schools must also learn from the citizens: How the people view the press, what information they need (rather than what we say they need), new standards of trust.

Journalism schools should not issue ethical codes but collaborate with the public journalism serves to debate ethical issues in the press.

Journalism schools can study the changes in the press brought on by the internet and citizen’s media, can help big media adapt and survive, and help citizens practice this craft well.

All of which leads, no surprise, to a plug for my own hobbyhorse:

: A CITIZENS’ MEDIA CENTER: About a year ago, I plugged the notion of a Citizens’ Media Center that would bring together journalism students, citizen journalists, big-media journalists, and newsmakers. I was going to start to raise funding for a planning grant but then got tied up in some of the knots of the foundation and university worlds (alien earths to me). But this is an opportune moment to plug it again. Here is a short version of the proposal I wrote (which I’d change a bit knowing what I know now). Take a look.

: ON JOURNALISM SCHOOLS: Much of this discussion is coming out now because of the new Carnegie-Knight initiative to improve journalism education. Here are a few of many links on the topic:

At Broadcasting & Cable’s blog, Joel Meyer contemplates the future of j-schools on the occasion of his own graduation from one with good links to Greg Lindsay’s j-screed and David Halberstam’s commencement speech at Columbia and Howard Finberg’s report on the new Carnegie-Knight initiative on improving journalism education.


Do you side with the establishment in hopes that you will someday inherit it; or do you subvert the status quo by creating something new in hopes of winning a place at the table down the road?

In case you haven’t already figured it out: By enrolling in j-school, you (perhaps unwittingly) picked the establishment. Any guesses as to what’s on the other side? Bloggers, for one. The debate about whether bloggers are journalists ultimately boils down to a struggle about whether the former should be granted the privileges and pay packages of the latter. Bloggers are outsiders seeking status the only way outsiders know how: by prying it away from those who currently have it.


Journalism professors are often torn between the needs of the practical -ñ turning out well-trained journalists -ñ and the desire for the scholarly, which provides more job opportunities.

Some journalism educators who hope to adjust curriculum to reflect the digital age find themselves hampered by accreditation policies….

The future of journalism training is not an academic debate. It is tied closely to the larger issue of training for professional journalists.

The media industry has spent little on ñ- and paid little attention to — the continuing education of its professionals….

Tim Porter:

The question, of course, is one that confronts all institutions trying to change: Can the priesthood reinvent itself or will good intentions – even those with a $6 million underwriting – be swallowed by tradition and intransigence?

One indication that the temple guards – to continue the metaphor – are still going to control the acolytes is the emphasis the new initiative places on investigative reporting….

Investigative reporting is a critical differentiator for professional journalism from the media noise we live in, but should it be a core element – an emphasis – of journalism education over other components? I’m not so sure.

I would substitute and start with community journalism (which I know does not exclude investigative reporting). Most journalists coming out of school are confronted either with small town newspapers or suburban news bureau in their first jobs, where investigative reporting is about as popular — or wanted — as first-person essays.

Andew Cline with a most insightful view of journalistic arrogance::

The plain fact of the matter is that most journalism is practiced at the local level for modest news organizations. That’s where most of our students will go to work. And I think we do our students, and the citizens of the communities in which they practice, a disservice by encouraging (even) our (best) students to believe that good journalism must be practiced at big-time news organizations.

The only size that matters in journalism is community assessment of its quality (does it help do what must be done?) and not its bigness in terms of national influence or circulation….

* We teach students to be arrogant when we teach them that national is better than local.

* We teach students to be arrogant when we teach them that the audience is “general.”

* We teach students to be arrogant when we teach them to elevate investigative reporting over solid day-to-day reporting.

* We teach students to be arrogant when we teach them to value winning prizes for their work.

* We teach students to be arrogant when we fail to teach them what language really is, how it really works, and how people really use it.

* We teach students to be arrogant when we teach them that journalists have more First Amendment rights than citizens.

* We teach students to be arrogant when we teach them that journalists are responsible for making democracy work.

* We teach students to be arrogant when we teach them to ignore the fact that they are players in civic affairs.

* We teach students to be arrogant when we teach them the nonsense of the philosophical ideal of objectivity rather than the objective process of good reporting.

* We teach students to be arrogant when we fail to teach them that the public always knows more than they do.

Donica Mensing on the role schools could play:

Journalism educators clearly have a stake in the outcome of restoring trust in the media, and they could play a unique role in generating truly innovative journalism that connects with and serves various publics. Whether universities can break free of some of the institutional patterns that tend to trap them in passing along the approved canon instead of innovating and changing journalism, is an open question. Regardless, this experiment in collaboration will be an interesting one to watch.

See also Paul Conley and Bob Stepno on the schools left out.

: It’s a good and healthy discussion and I’m eager to hear Jay Rosen pipe in.

  • Old Grouch

    On reading the Carnegie Corporation’s FAQ (linked by Bob Stepno), I was immediately struck by this paragraph:

    Just as we need well-educated and well-trained teachers for public schools; we need well-educated and well-trained journalists… [W]e must look to journalism schools… to prepare the news leaders of the 21st century.

    First, am I the only one who finds that first-sentence comparison disconcerting?

    For the last 75 years we have seen increasing professionalization of teaching, and for at least 60 of those 75 we have heard mounting complaints of the quality of our schools, yet the Carnegie folks seem to want to make journalism more like education.

    Does the 21st century require a credentialing process for reporters akin to that of teachers; a process that today keeps Math PhDs out of high school classrooms because they lack credits in “methods of education” or “audio-visual techniques”? Does the Commission believe that the problems of legacy media will be solved by cultivating an ever-more-inbred reportorial priesthood that knows lots about “journalism” but little about the world around it?

    And does it really believe that such a priesthood will produce the “news leaders of the 21st century?”

    Although the devil is in the details, the proposal isn’t encouraging. From the FAQ:

    The project increases the capacity of the collaborating schools three ways:

    1. By improving subject-matter education for journalists;
    2. By developing innovative investigative reporting projects;
    3. And by promoting good research on news, journalism and journalism education.

    “Promoting good research?” This one is a suck-up to the institutions. The schools get: An advanced degree track by which they can extract even more money from all those B.Journalism graduates who can’t find jobs at Gannett or Knight-Ridder. We get: Even more navel-gazing in an already parochial industry. (Well at least it might keep some of the pedants out of the newsroom!)

    “Innovative investigative reporting projects?” How is that different from the learning-by-doing that the schools are supposed to offer already?

    “Improving subject-matter education” is the only item on this list that I see as having even a chance at improving the quality of what we read in the newspapers and see on television. Except I’d strike the “subject-matter” part. Journalism grads already get a grasp of the mechanics of their trade, what they lack is the broader knowledge and cultural background that used to be found in the newsroom. The advent of the “professional journalist” has meant that the people who are trying to sift through the “fragmentation of knowledge” are people who confuse World War I with World War II, who can’t contrast median and average, who don’t know the difference between carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, mistake inductive for deductive reasoning (or Puccini for Piazzolla)… but they can sure write snappy ledes and edit video like crazy.

    And how does any of this relate to Jeff’s citizens’ media? Journalism is a contracting profession. Every week we hear of more layoffs and consolidations in the news business. Yet, at the same time, more non-journalists are “doing journalism,” on the web and elsewhere. In these circumstances, creating an academic-journalistic complex is going backward. The practices of good journalism need to be spread wider, not concentrated in an (increasingly unemployable) elite. Instead of “better-educated journalists,” what we need is “educated people who know how to do journalism.”

    So instead: Abolish the journalism degree. Recognize that the techniques-n-standards part of journalism is only a skill, and, at the college level, is only part of a broader education. Instead, offer journalism as a concentration. Pare the journalism curriculum to the basics, making it practical for anyone to complete the sequence– especially students who don’t plan journalism as a career. (Show it on their diploma, too.) So when the statistician blogs his interpretation of the latest poll results, or the chemist writes about environmental pollution, or the engineer critiques the design of the new highway project, each will have the reportorial techniques and standards he needs to do a good job of it.

    And we’ll have more citizens– the readers, the viewers, the listeners– who will be able to recognize what is, and what isn’t, good reporting. Making an educated market which, because it will recognize and demand higher standards, will make for better news for all of us.

  • arf

    “Something is happening here and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones” was written about a reporter.

  • Yes lets not forget the public…
    Korean Newspaper OhMyNews http://english.ohmynews.com/
    OhMyNews in Korea. The 3 largest newspaper. It is a digital newspaper ñ but that is not the interesting bit. The paradigm shift is that it has 26,000 citizen reporters that contribute to the newspaper. Get your story published and you receive $20 USD and your name in print.
    Founder and Editor Oh Yeon-ho said in an interview with Wired Magazine ìWith OhmyNews, we wanted to say goodbye to 20th-century journalism where people only saw things through the eyes of the mainstream, conservative media. Our main concept is every citizen can be a reporter. We put everything out there and people judge the truth for themselves.”
    The Guardian described it as the world’s most domestically powerful newsite and a South Korean diplomat was quoted as saying that the no policy maker can now ignore OhMyNews

  •       I was especially intrigued by Andrew Cline’s statement:
          “We teach students to be arrogant when we teach them to elevate investigative reporting over solid day-to-day reporting.”   What are we to make of the distinction between “investigative” and “day-to-day” reporting, and why are they supposedly different?
          More thoughts on this report at my blog.