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Why we need a better conversation about the future of journalism education

Poynter

Two New York writers exchanged misfire recently about journalism education, and almost all of it was misdirected. Then the conversation they started died with damning faint praise.

We should have that conversation, only a better one.

The brouhaha began when media pugilist Michael Wolff in USA Today attacked the Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism as a “disgrace” and “an intellectual failure” largely because President Lee Bollinger had appointeda traditional journalist as new dean, ex-Washington Post managing editor and New Yorker writer Steve Coll.

The New York Times’ David Carr rose to praise Columbia and Coll, but in the process he tarred almost everyone else. “Journalism education is something of a confidence game,” he tossed off. Given a shrinking job base, “many journalism programs … are escalators to nowhere.”

This is a critical juncture in the history of how we teach the next generation of journalists– whether they work in conventional newsrooms or elsewhere. Some schools, including the University of Colorado, Indiana University and Emory University, have made the decision to do away with their standalone journalism programs. The reason, oversimplified, is that the trade school model of teaching journalism, which has never fit comfortably in research universities, falters when the jobs supporting it are shrinking.

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