I had the opportunity to get lunch today with Ryan Knutson (@UOknutson), a former colleague at the Daily Emerald that I respect and consider a friend. He’s several weeks away from graduating with a double major at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication. Given the current state of the newspaper industry, and thus the education industry that feeds it, I thought it might be interesting to ask him about his perspective on the situation, where his felt his J school was successful and where it needs to improve, and why he’s optimistic about the future of news.
When he discusses the journalism school, I think there’s an important note to be made: most of the value in the education he obtained was from the skills he learned, not necessarily the academic side of journalism. As the tools and methods needed to do journalism change at a greater and greater pace, the four year approach of the university becomes an inappropriate and ineffective mechanism for delivering knowledge. I think this is a large root cause reason for why J schools are having such difficulty in trying to figure out what to teach. They have an idea of what will be applicable today, but not four years down the road. On the plus side, though, there will be more and more demand for weekend or short-term workshops to learn special skills such as Flash, database design, Final Cut Pro, and the basics of editing audio.