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Journalism school...is it worth it?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by JR, Jun 16, 2006.

  1. JR

    JR Well-Known Member

    Interesting column by Geoff Pevere, one of the film critics at the Toronto Star. If you want to be a filmmaker or a journalist, he says, maybe you should reconsider going to film or j-school.



    What I am suggesting is that both filmmaking and journalism should ideally be viewed as means of engaging with and understanding the world. If your knowledge of that world is restricted to what you learned in school, how could you do anything but reproduce what's already been done? You can't.

    And thus we live in a culture where movies get made by people who have done nothing but make movies, and news is reported by people who have done nothing but report news.
  2. txsportsscribe

    txsportsscribe Active Member

    and those damn doctors have done nothing but go to medical school.
  3. Flying Headbutt

    Flying Headbutt Moderator Staff Member

    Back in college I had a major columnist from the Wash Post tell me to get the hell out of journalism school immediately. That the field is so stacked I needed to be ready to get a job in something else with another major. Course, maybe I'm a fool but I didn't do that and I ended up getting my very first entry level job through a posting from where else? The j-school. And then the jobs I've gotten subsequently through contacts made there at that first job, including the one I have right now. And my next gig could end up being helped in part through an old professor of mine who was nice enough to re-introduce me to a friend of hers, someone in a much bigger place than where I'm at now who already told me to send him a package so he had something on file.

    So while what you did in school means jack-squat the minute you're hired for your first job, I'm starting to be reminded it's more worth it than I may have first thought.
  4. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    I don't think Pevere is talking about networking, or helping you make a living. For that, J-school can be indispensable. No, he's talking about the quality of the work -- particularly, the quality of the ideas.

    Let me digress:

    Everyone needs life experience to be able to understand life ... or at least begin to understand it. (I don't think any of us truly understand life, no matter what our experiences are!)

    J-school -- or any school -- does NOT teach you about life experience. So no, J-school does not necessarily make you a better journalist any more than film school makes you a better filmmaker. It does give you some basic technical tools, however, and more knowledge is never a bad thing in any field.

    That said, you're likely not going to be very good at journalism if you're insulated in your little journalism bubble. Any creative endeavour, in which part of your goal is to connect with other people, is only going to be successful-- your work is only going to be successful if you yourself have connected with other people, in other fields, in other situations, in other experiences.

    J-school can sometimes inhibit that; many of us are surrounded only by other journalists, and not other types of people that can offer us a different perspective on stories. For example, on this board we sometimes lose sight of the reasons why, say, ESPN or Mitch Albom are so popular with the general public. We have our reasons why they both suck -- and our reasons are just as legit as the public's -- but we forget why the public still eats them up. We're thinking like journalists, and not like the public.

    I think that's the point Pevere is trying to make. You can't be in that writers/film/artistic bubble, with little outside life experience, and expect to bring a fresh perspective to what you do. Journalists, or filmmakers, or writers, or teachers, or anyone whose primary weapon is their mind (or their imaginations), are always more effective when they USE their minds (and their imaginations) in ways other than the ways they've been taught, in J-school or film school.

    Indirect way of making a valid point. And a very interesting discussion, to boot.
  5. Madhavok

    Madhavok Well-Known Member

    Buck pretty much posted what I was going to.

    But I propose another question: for those who majored in other areas besides journalism, whether it be history, business, english, etc.; is going back to school for your master's worth it, say in journalism? You know, just in case down the road you decide you want to teach it on the side?

    Would a master's in journalism help you down the road in landing gigs at larger papers or possibly moving up the chain to ME/publisher?

    I believe it's still about talent regardless of where you got your degree or what it is in, but I always have this feeling that some hiring editors are (too) concerned with where you went to college. Hopefully I am wrong.
  6. I think there are a handful of J-schools out there that still carry some weight with hiring editors when it comes to young reporters. But that is not a large number. And really, after a certain age, where one went to school and what one majored in means absolutely nothing. One of the best writers I know in this business got his degree in human resources.

    Personally, I learned more just working for the campus paper for three-plus years than anything in my J-school's classrooms. I wish I would have majored in something else because my J-school did very little for me.
  7. JR

    JR Well-Known Member

    A parallel I think could be made for an MBA degree.

    I have a buddy of mine who went back to get his when he was in his early 30's after having a very successful career to that point in the book biz.

    His common complaint was that a lot of his younger classmates--those who had jumped into the program--were terrific at reading a balance sheet but were out to lunch when it came to thinking creatively about running a business because all they had known was the inside of a classroom.

    I think what Pevere is saying (and Buck said it far more eloquently than I ever could) is that the culmination of your life's experiences contribute a great deal to your excellence in whatever field you choose.
  8. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    Look ... it's a piece of the puzzle. Nothing less, nothing more. If you have the J-school pedigree, you're taken more seriously in some places.

    But what we all know is there are PhDs with no common sense and people who never graduated from HS with great common sense. I'd sooner trust the latter with something I need done right.
  9. JBHawkEye

    JBHawkEye Well-Known Member

    Most of what I learned in J-school that I've carried into the newspaper world was about ethics, law and the business of journalism.

    For writing, and experience with the good and bad people you're going to cover, that's why it's important to start getting experience early in newsrooms, whether it's on the student newspaper or working for the local paper.
  10. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    No, no, no. 97% of all publishers could not possibly care less about the academic or journalistic credentials of their management staff. Can you get the paper out and under budget, that's the ticket.

    And I would bet that less than 10% of publishers come from the editorial side. Advertising and accounting, that's where the publishers come from. Follow the money.
  11. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    No. In fact, in some cases it may be the opposite. I took a year out of my budding career to get a masters and, in a manner of speaking, it's been all downhill since. It wasn't the masters that hurt me but getting off track - by the time I came back to the workforce, many of my contacts had moved on or had forgotten about me.

    That said, a masters is the new bachelors. It can never hurt to have one in something. Just plan accordingly.

    I also think some of the major j-schools are just riding their reputations and doing little to produce quality journalism instruction. But that's a whole other can of worms...
  12. huntsie

    huntsie Active Member

    J-school probably gives you the credibility to get your first job. After that, it doesn't mean much. You're as good as your work ethic/clip file/attitude and ability carry you.
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