Change, don’t cut, journalism programs


Christina Coleburn, Senior Editor

The reputation of collegiate journalism programs has fallen on hard times, fueled by statistics  showing that unemployment is decreasing for all graduates except journalism and communications majors. According to a new report from Georgetown University, the unemployment rate for these fields stands at 8.2 percent and is still rising. Median earnings in these fields also declined from 2009 to 2012. This report follows a May 2013 American Journalism Review study that found that journalists earn $2,080 less than the average wage in the United States. Academia has taken notice of these grim findings, as both the number of active journalism programs and total enrollment in journalism schools have fallen. Despite these bleak developments, collegiate journalism is not a lost cause, though it is one that could be revived by
revisiting curricula.

Following these dire developments, some have opined  that axing these majors would not be detrimental to those who are interested in them. Critics argue that many influential journalists have not studied the field in an academic context. They contend that practical interactions with media are more useful than theoretical
ones — especially in light of the shaky return on investment. While these arguments may resonate with some, journalism is still a worthy course of study. The decision to close journalism programs at the University of Colorado-BoulderEmory University and Delta State University prompted an uproar from faculty and students.

Rather than slashing funding for collegiate journalism, adjustments should be made to existing curricula. In an open letter to university presidents, a group of journalism funders recommended ateaching hospital model to modernize standards and integrate technology into the classroom. The University of Texas has revised its curriculum to include multimedia skills, while Arizona State University’s News21 program gives students the chance to produce in-depth reporting projects. NYU mandates that journalism students must double major to ensure they are well-versed in more than one area. Other universities could adopt similar changes to make students more well-rounded, technologically savvy and capable of adapting to contemporary newsrooms.

By cutting funding for journalism programs rather than modernizing teaching methods, universities deny interested students instruction in a valuable field. In revitalizing journalism curricula, universities could give students the practical components they need to maximize their education and become more employable. Revised teachings must include multimedia training while ensuring that critical thinking, investigative principles and ethics of traditional reporting are not sacrificed. Journalism is not dying — it is evolving. Updated curricula, not budget cuts, must follow in order to prepare students for the demands of a changing newsroom.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, March 5 print edition. Email Christina Coleburn at [email protected]