I’m still making my way through all of the commentary kicked off by Tim O’Reilly’s post on the value of the newspaper (see links in my Sunday Squibs post below), but I do want to comment on Dave Winer’s ideas. As part of his reaction, Dave suggested that journalism education become a mandatory part of college education.
Why? Because journalism like everything else that used to be centralized is in the process of being distributed. In the future, every educated person will be a journalist, as today we are all travel agents and stock brokers…. So it pays to make an investment now and teach the educated people of the future the basic principles of journalism.
Ryan Sholin referenced that idea, drawing the comment from Bryan Murley that what students needed wasn’t so much journalism training as it is media literacy.
Not every educated person wants to be a journalist. While I’d love to have journalism be a required course (job security and all that), making it required is going to do little more for us than the required three semesters of English Lit that every student sits through.
I’d rather argue for a required Media Literacy course, so every student has the skills to use the media in a thoughtful manner.
Being a good Canadian, I come down somewhere in the middle. Media literacy is vital. As far as I’m concerned, it should be taught much earlier than the undergrad level. I’m halfway through the amazing “Convergence Culture” by Henry Jenkins and it would make a great text to begin the exploration.
I also think there is value in teaching some core journalism skills to undergrads. The ability to find and use primary sources, analyze documents, work ethically, write effectively, approach information and subjects impartially, and all the other attributes of good journalism have value beyond the newsroom. At the very least, giving educated folk the vocabulary and understanding of the processes of journalism will lead to much better understanding, much more cogent criticism, and much better (if desired) participation in the task of explaining the world to each other.
We shouldn’t burden every undergrad with forced lessons in inverted pyramids or writing effective headlines, but there’s value in giving everyone better skills in assessing and weighing information, applying a critical eye and sharing with us their findings and opinions (as opposed to rants). Getting to that point involves both media literacy and journalism.
NOTE: There’s more to Dave’s suggestions than a little education, including ways of bringing blogging voices more firmly into the mix. Follow the link above.