Too Cool for School

Philly's journalism schools say they're prepared for the future. But students aren't sure if their teachers are ready for today.

By Larry Atkins
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 7 | Posted Apr. 6, 2009

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Temple isn't alone. Drexel University now offers a BA in global journalism. Arcadia University started a Visual Culture in India Project, where communications students travel to India and then create multimedia projects. Villanova launched The Zone, an interactive portal run through the Communications Department that broadcasts students’ radio shows.

But Jody Ross, a Villanova instructor who serves as faculty advisor to the student newspaper, says it's still important that students learn the basics of journalism.

“We have not changed our program; in fact, more students than ever seem interested in studying journalism," she said. "They learn to think, report and write accurately and fairly to distinguish fact from opinion and to carry sensations they see, hear, smell, touch or taste directly to the reader without adding assumptions or conclusions. Best of all, they learn to write well. ... Whether our students become news writers, public relations professionals, business executives, doctors, teachers or lawyers, their journalism training always pays off.”

Will Bunch, a Daily News reporter who writes the blog Attytood, lauds that approach.

“The core values of journalism aren’t really changing,” Bunch says. “You have to understand what makes a good story, how to report it and how to report fairly. It was the same with Joseph Pulitzer’s newspaper 150 years ago or with newfangled websites.

“What is radically different are important secondary things that schools have to account for. Journalists today need to understand that news is a two-way conversation with the audience," Bunch says. "Audience members are active participants—they comment on stories, participate as sources, and provide information and tips. Schools can maintain their core values and work on that.”

Most of my Temple journalism students express positive feelings about the overall education they’re receiving, but their views are mixed as to whether they’re being taught enough about new and emerging technologies.

“Honestly, it’s a crapshoot," says one of my former students, Jeff Craven, a Temple senior. "There are some professors who absolutely understand the importance of being connected online and interacting with your audience in order to understand them better and bring them news that suits them, rather than what you think suits them. While they try to bring the Internet to us through projects like the class blog, at least they’re trying.”

“Then there are professors who think they they’re too old to be connected," Craven adds. "They’ve grown up in the professional world without using the Internet, and think that the future of media is best left up to people who understand the technology. As a result, some of the higher level courses feel like they’re missing some sort of online component.”

One of the most important tools students will need is flexibility, says LaSalle University Assistant Professor Huntly Collins.

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Comments 1 - 7 of 7
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1. Eric said... on Apr 7, 2009 at 09:19AM

“I graduated from Temple University 2 years ago with a degree in Journalism and minor in Latin American Studies. To be honest, I do not regret the path I choose because the classes were great. Investigative reporting, broadcast journalism and electronic information gathering were just some of the few classes I learned a lot from.

I learned about social media through my own adventures and I wouldn't expect Temple or any other school to change their programs. However, I do think it's a component.”

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2. Jackie Jardine said... on Apr 7, 2009 at 10:44AM

“While not everything posted or published in the blogosphere deserves the attention of a university curriculum, this ubiquitous form of communication is making every single blogger a journalist of sorts. It would certainly be interesting to have some academic insight in to the phenomenon. And it couldn't hurt the aspiring writer either, given the sad situation of print media. Given the rapid decline of newspaper and magazine sales, tangibility of media is becoming a thing of the past. And though I dread the demise of print media, I realize I must adapt as a writer...that is, if I want a career in the field.”

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3. andrew said... on Apr 7, 2009 at 06:58PM

“You have got to be fucking kidding me. A Temple journalism professor writing about his students and the future of journalism...in PW...again.”

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4. grm1 said... on Apr 9, 2009 at 09:45PM

“andrew, whats your point ???”

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5. grm1 said... on Apr 9, 2009 at 09:45PM

“andrew, whats your point ???”

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6. Mike said... on Apr 11, 2009 at 01:08PM

“I am puzzled as to why college kids would waste their parents money on a major like journalism. What is the future in it? Papers all over the place are on life support, including here in Philly.

A buddy of mine majored in the Radio TV Film program and he got nowhere fast, so he went back to school for IT and is now making 70k. It's really a pity that Temple still offers these majors that do not pay well and take years to repay in loans.



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7. andrew said... on Apr 12, 2009 at 10:40PM

“@ grm1: My point is that PW only recently published a cover story by George Miller on the exact same thing, which - similarly to this story - said nothing. Miller's story was a pointless rumination on his profession that lacked insight; this is a mere transcript of interviews with 19-year-olds that also lacks insight.

I should point out that the successful people I know who graduated from the journalism program see it as a wasted experience and had to put in their own extracurricular legwork to learn how to actually think.”

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