Monday, July 20, 2009

Close Most Journalism Schools

Yup. Shut 'em down. Or at least stop pretending the students who enroll in them have any more chance at a job than a kid with an economics degree and some good college paper clippings.
I taught at a J-school for two years. The students were bright people and I could see most of them working in media, if there were any jobs. They were good enough and smart enough. They will emerge with a BA that, on its own, is as valuable as a degree in anthropology or sociology. They'll have a bit of a door-opener into the public service, the private sector (other than in media), and might go on to law school. I used my own journalism degree, a Master's, as a stepping-stone to PhD studies, though most J-school Master's grads probably could not make that jump.
There are too many journalism schools in Canada. Most community colleges across Canada now have one -- which is outright fraud. There are now two university J-schools in Ottawa (the U of Ottawa-Algonquin-Cite College program is new), a new J-school at Wilfrid Laurier University, and several new ones in BC's rapidly-expanding undergrad university system. There are also established programs at UBC, Western, Ryerson, Carleton, Concordia, and King's College in Halifax.
That's way too many. At most, we need four: UBC, Ryerson (because of its connection to Toronto media, which really is where the bulk of hiring happens for jobs that pay more than minimum), Carleton (because of the quality of its school), and King's (for Atlantic Canada). Enrollment in all of those schools should be no more than about 150 people, all in undergrad streams.
Here's a piece from the Huffington Post about the J-school scam in the US, where the fees are higher and there are far more J-school students as a percentage of undergrads) than there are in Canada.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I noticed that you did not include Concordia where you taught for two years among the four schools that should be left open for journalism training. Why? Is there something about Concordia J-school that the world should know?
Just curious on why it's not among your selected four.

Ottawa Watch said...

Concordia really can't compete with Ryerson and Carleton in size, expertise, and connections to the job market, especially in print.

Anonymous said...

What about UBC and King's? What do they have over Concordia?

Ottawa Watch said...

Regional attachments.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your explanation.

Anonymous said...

I know a number of relative recent community college grads, decent enough people, in journalism
who are working in various types of retail.
Don't you think that they feel have been had even if they don't seem particularly bitter about a couple of
years lost and a nice monthly student
loan bill.

Ottawa Watch said...

Yes, I do.
However, the community college j-schools were always a bad idea. In their best days, even people who got jobs would likely have poor careers, as the better media want a minimum of a BA. Every university J-school grad has a BA, which is now the real minimum education level for management. I would argue that a BA in journalism, even from a small and relatively unimportant school like Concordia, is at least as valuable in the job market as a BA in social sciences from any university.
Journalism, when taught by people who know the craft, does teach research, organization and communications skills that are very useful in the white collar world. I also believe J-school is good prep for law school, and I encouraged some of my students at Concordia to go that route.

JA Goneaux said...

Well, take it from a guy who studied media arts (writing elective) at Sheridan College: only one guy in my class has had any sort of a career in writing (although he's worked with Steven Spielberg and on shows like E.R., which kinda bends the curve up a bit).

No, it wasn't journalism per se, but we did work on magazine writing, editing, and "desk top publishing" (hey, it was 1986...), as well as profile writing, researching (i.e., working for free on one of John Robert Columbo's books).

A few years ago, the majority of us thought of launching a class action suit because of what we thought was fraud in the way we were taught: no internship (as advertised), clueless and talentless hacks as instructors, etc. But in the end, it wasn't worth it.

You are right about going into public service (worked for quite a few of us). Then again, I've had supervisors there who have degrees in chemical engineering and other non-related areas. So I think the idea is "education in general", not "directed education".

Anonymous said...

More "caveat emptor" on behalf of students are necessary. Some of these kids enter college and university with the burning naivete of a five-year-old who wants to become an astronaut.

Anonymous said...

True enough about the naivety of a lot of college/university students. I thought my generation was bad enough in that department, and the economic good times of the late 60's and early 70's probably contributed to that, but the a lot of the next generation doesn't seem much wiser. At least, it seemed cheaper to go in those days in terms of tuition and accomodation and what summer jobs and OSAP could bring in.

Ottawa Watch said...

But really, what would you take these days that guarantees you a job? Certainly not law, business and most types of engineering. Teachers college? Pure sciences? Quite frankly, I can't think of anything in a university except medicine.
Maybe a community college trade program, but you'd still have to be careful there.
Journalism offers 18-year-olds some role-playing fun on TV and the chance -- a very vague chance -- at a job in a field that is usually a lot of fun, even if it does tend to pay poorly and is, in the main, run by idiots.

Anonymous said...

BCIT and SAIT are well known j-schools out west. Huge percentage of job placement.

Anonymous said...

BCIT almost exclusively only takes people who already have a Bachelors degree.

Anthony said...

To be honest, my year at Concordia Journalism taught me more about communications than it did about Journalism.

Whether it is the program, or my life experience, the fact that they doubled the amount of students admitted when less than 5 of us are working in the field right now is kind of sad.