What’s in a name? Not ‘journalism’ for some universities adapting to industry changes

Fulcrum

On Wednesday, Adam Feibel reported in the University of Ottawa’s Fulcrum that the Canadian school’s journalism program would remain in a freeze for another year.

Admission to the program was frozen for the current academic year after a 2012 report to the university senate called the program “deeply troubled” and suggested its elimination. In August, it was revealed the program would be suspended in order to undergo improvements and would be reopened for the 2014–15 school year.

But it’s not quite there yet.

The university won’t be accepting any new students to the program next year, either. In an email to the Fulcrum, program coordinator Evan Potter said the university needed more time to review the program, and that the faculty and department are in discussion about where to go from here.

While not frozen, some schools have started dropping the word journalism from their names. On Feb. 24, Poynter reported that West Virginia University’s Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism plans to become the Reed College of Media. In October of last year, the board of trustees at Indiana University approved a new Media School, combining the journalism school with several other departments. In 2012, Emory University decided to close its journalism school.

In June of 2012, Poynter’s Howard Finberg, director of training partnerships and alliances, wrote about the future of journalism education. “Journalism education is at its own inflection point,” Finberg wrote.

Whether you are an educator, school administrator, run a training center or are just interested in journalism, this is a critical time for journalism education, as critical as it was for media industry 20 years ago.

Without a robust future for journalism education, it is harder to see a robust future for journalism. And that’s bad for democracy and for citizens who depend on fair and accurate information.

We have learned that media companies cannot cut their way out of the disruption in the economic models.

Journalism education cannot teach its way to the future.

He followed up last August.

The same disruptive forces that battered the media industry are threatening the economics of private and public universities. The traditional media players were slow to recognize how their business model was going to be undercut by technology and how the Internet would transform a precious commodity into something with little or no value.

News was a valuable commodity because it was scarce. The Internet turned scarcity into abundance by providing new outlets and new platforms for consumers to access news and information.

The same thing, I believe, is about to happen to education.

Finberg and Poynter’s Lauren Klinger, an interactive learning producer, released a survey last August on “The Future of Journalism Education.” Vicki Krueger, Poynter’s director of interactive learning, highlighted some key findings.

Today, 96 percent of journalism educators believe that a journalism degree is very important to extremely important when it comes to understanding the value of journalism. However, only 57 percent of media professionals believe the same.

More than 80 percent of educators but only 25 percent of media professionals say a journalism degree is extremely important when it comes to learning news gathering skills.

Thirty-nine percent of educators say journalism education is keeping up with industry changes a little or not at all. Editors and staffers are even harsher, with 48 percent saying the academy isn’t keeping up with changes in the field.

Thinking back to the last person their organization hired, only 26 percent of media professionals say the person had “most” or “all” of the skills necessary to be successful.

Finberg and Klinger are currently working on another survey, examining “The Future of Journalism Competencies.” They plan to release the survey, which includes responses from more than 2,900 people, at a Poynter’s News University webinar in April.

“In summary, the findings are surprising,” Finberg wrote in an e-mail. “Professionals seem to have a very different view of the importance of these core skills than educators. Surprisingly, the professionals think some of the 37 skills are less important than educators, including some digital skills. Students and independent journalists also ranked some of these skills higher than professionals, which included staff members and managers.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Ottawa.

Related training: Core Skills for the 21st Century Journalist

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  • Hard Little Machine

    Why not? Their hero Glenn Greenwald actually scolds and corrects people who call him a journalist. Apparently he prefers to be known as a freedom activist, neo Nazi notwithstanding.

  • burghprof

    Funny, but I always thought it was spelled Ottawa, not Ottowa. And who knew Emory or Ottawa even had a journalism school? Of course, among the 500 journalism programs in the USA alone, it’s difficult to remember which university has one and which doesn’t. Half of them could be shut down and it wouldn’t make any difference to the media industries/professions.