“The cab driver boasted that his daughter had just graduated. But then he admitted that her journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin had cost $140,000. Since journalism is an ill-paid job that requires no formal qualification, this sounds like a waste of money.” – The Economist, Universities challenged, August 31, 2013

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Those are fightin’ words.

Doesn’t The Economist benefit from well-trained and clever journalists?

Should we just shut down all journalism and mass communication schools nationwide, if not worldwide?

Would the last J-school student be kind enough to turn out the lights?

This revealing provocative lead in which the Economist writer shared her/his intimate conversation with a Chicago area cabbie (so much wisdom is imparted in cabs) actually concerned the state of affairs of higher education. Namely, the upcoming federal Department of Education (DOE) ratings system in which colleges and universities conceivably will be judged for federal hand-outs based upon cost, graduation rate and how much students earn in their careers.

And you thought the Bowl Championship Series (BSC) metrics were Byzantine? Thank Darwin we only have to endure this system for one more year. The DOE standards/regulations could be with us into the indefinite future…which could be, forever.

Now that we have clarified the basic premise of the article, let’s go back to the notion that journalism is “ill paid,” that it requires “no formal qualification” and the implication that university journalism schools are a “waste of money.”

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Considering that I have two journalism-related degrees (one undergraduate and the other post-graduate) and I spent more than three-decades as a reporter (a few years) and as a public relations practitioner (a lot of years) and lately as a college instructor (a few more), I have a problem or two with the gross oversimplification exhibited by The Economist.

There is no doubt that college is damn expensive and not getting cheaper anytime soon. And yes, traditional Gutenbergesque journalism is in trouble. The business model doesn’t work anymore. Having acknowledged the obvious, these conclusions miss a major point: The global desire and yearning for instantaneous-and-accurate information on a 24/7/365 basis has never been greater.

The ability to tell the story, and to tell it well whether it be a reporter/editor, a public relations practitioner or advertising professional is in constant demand and cannot be effectively outsourced or offshored en masse.

The methods for telling, reporting and disseminating the story are changing. The world has moved from analog to digital. The demand for information outstrips the supply, and this trend is accelerating. This is an upward-to-the-right market.

And how will future journalism, public relations, advertising, social media and multi-media professionals learn these information development and dissemination skills? How about these supposedly “waste-of-money” journalism schools?

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1.)  Writing effectively will always be in demand, particularly by those who can quickly come to the point, provide insightful analysis, and write professionally and skillfully, employing AP Style.

2.)   Understanding the concept of the inverted pyramid in which the crux of the story is in the lead and all the supporting information flows from there.

3.)   Determining whether a story is newsworthy (or not) for target audiences. Learning how to ask the What? When? Where? Who, Why? And How?, ascertain these answers and transmit a complete-and-clear picture succinctly to news transmitters, whether they are conventional or digital.

4.)   Grasping and using “Big Data” in the form of compelling infographics to quickly and efficiently present useful information to critical audiences.

5.)   Appreciating that social media is not monolithic. There is a distinction between “connections” and “friends” online. Yes, you can digitally self-publish in 140-characters or less. Blogging is alive and well. Social media can be radioactive as digital miscues are eternal.

6.)   Comprehending the societal and technological shift from two-way asymmetrical communication theory (one to the masses) to digitally enabled two-way symmetrical communication theory conversations (message receiver responds publicly to the message sender).

7.)   Gaining the skill sets to generate professional digital photos, audio and video and use state-of-the-art software (e.g., Final Cut Pro) for compelling multimedia pieces.

8.)   Garnering the knowledge of financial communications including relevant SEC disclosure rules and being able to distinguish between fiduciary responsibility and corporate social responsibility.

9.)   Overcoming glossophobia and becoming more confident in delivering presentations, particularly those that are conversational in style and using supporting graphics.

10.)  Securing the confidence to perform instinctively in a crisis communications setting, quickly develop relevant messages and ultimately protect an organization’s reputation and brand.

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There is little doubt that journalism, public relations, advertising, social media and multi-media educators, graduates and students can add to the Almost DailyBrett list of J-School attributes cited above, including cultural distinctions inherent in international communications.

What’s more important is that when one considers and weighs the skill sets that are being taught and learned, particularly in a rapidly changing technology landscape, the value of a solid journalism education is maybe as valuable as it has ever been.

Society’s insatiable demand for news and information has never been greater.

The Genie is simply not going back into the bottle.

http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21584393-barack-obama-wants-degrees-be-better-value-money-universities-challenged

 

 

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