Fundamentally rebooting J school

Journalism education needs much more of a fundamental reboot than just adding courses to teach “social media,” and the world has room for one more podcast full of pundits to guide the transformation. We give you:

This Week in Rebooting the Ecosystem for Reinventing J school

Writer’s note (because there ain’t no editor): In all seriousness, the three of us love, like serious humanly love, This Week in Tech, Rebooting the News, and all people, podcasts, and/or cities we tease at in this episode. It’s only out of love that we jest. We have better technical difficulties too.

To frame the solutions to the problem, we begin by establishing some of the ways in which J school is a broken model for the 21st century. In most other fields, Joey Baker points out, academia is the research space. If that’s not the case, then it’s the military. The news industry is the only one where the industry leads and academia is behind.

Greg Linch points out another issue in that J schools, as institutions, are really slow to change. They have a critical inability to adapt quickly. This is a bigger issue in the 21st century because some of the tools journalists need to know how to use are changing at an exponential rate. As both Joey Baker and I point out, many of the tools taught in a four year undergraduate program are obsolete or nearing such a stage by graduation. J schools aren’t going to get back ahead by teaching “social media.” The problem isn’t with what they’re teaching, but rather how they’re teaching it. Another fundamental that needs to change.

A third issue is that the core curriculum is one size fits all. The class structure and material of 200-level courses is generally designed for the perceived average of 200 hundred students. As such, it doesn’t match any of them well and at least some of them are in the extreme ends of the bell curve where the class is completely worthless.

The grading system is broken because there’s no system of rewards for those who try experiments and learn from their failures. The list goes on.

It’s not the end of the world for journalism schools, the university system, or newspapers. There are just fundamental ways in which each need to change.

On a related note, I thought of two more parallels between J school and newspapers in the past 24 hours. One: all of the university lectures around the world are pretty much rewrites of the same thing. Two: students have very little say in the content of what they get from the professor.

The solutions aren’t unique and won’t be easy to implement, but all of the ideas we discussed would make us excited to be back in school (bootcamps, barcamps, testing out of classes, and experiential education ftw).

Our picks of the week are:

  • Tynt Tracer, from Joey – If you turn off the annoying “feature” where it adds a link to the end of the bit of text you’ve copied, then it’s a tool that offers really cool analytics on what people are copy and pasting from your website including word clouds and all that jazz.
  • Kaltura Community Edition, from Greg – open source video server you can host yourself.
  • Skitch, from Daniel – Wickedly simple and fast way to communicate visually (Mac only).

Enjoy the podcast. It’s worth skipping the first nine minutes and then listening to the rest all of the way through. Greg has a brilliant point that we actually had to create an addendum for at the end.

Later: In my rush to get this post out, I missed two really great sets of ideas from earlier this year: “Remaking Journalism Education: Some Thoughts” from March and “Bring-a-Professor chat wrap-up” at CollegeJourn in February. Absorb those as well.



Andrew August 2, 2009 Reply

Nice, I look forward to listening to this tomorrow. Will this become a weekly/regular thing (I hope so)?

Daniel August 2, 2009 Reply

Haha, I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see… (meaning, I haven’t the faintest idea. It was really a spur of the moment thing).

Joey Baker August 2, 2009 Reply

I was jealous that I wasn’t there for the addendum, but then I realized I was really more jealous of Greg’s ability to find inspiration while brushing his teeth. 🙂

This was a lot of fun to do, but if we’re nutty enough to do this weekly we gotta work on the technical issues 🙂

RickWaghorn August 2, 2009 Reply

Interesting stuff, chaps.

IMHO, we’ve got to teach kids to sell – and earn their story-writing supper.

Best, etc


Greg Linch August 3, 2009 Reply

I’m glad you mentioned the j-schools and newspapers topic — I was going to propose that as the basis for next week’s discussion 🙂

Leave a Reply