‘Should journalism degrees still prepare students for a news industry that doesn’t want them?’

Paper Cuts newspaper job cuts blog

Paul Bradshaw invited me on Twitter to answer this question on Seesmic recently, and Paul reported on the responses on his blog. He asked the question in light of a punishing wave of redundancies, many in US newspapers, and hiring freezes and programme cuts in the UK. The blog Papercuts lists 6358 job cuts in US newspapers already in 2008.

Here’s the full conversation:

One of my comments:

So many journalists think ‘If I’m a good writer, that’s all I need’. That’s bullshit. There is an arrogance among journalists about the craft of writing. Journalism students will need more than the ability to craft a good sentence.

not only caught Paul’s attention, but also “twenty-something regional newspaper journalist” Joanna Geary (what’s your new shiny title Joanna?) and my colleague Roy Greenslade. I’m not entirely sure why that hit such a nerve. (The particular comment is in a separate video on YouTube.)

One comment that caught my eye was that of David Cohn:

Partly because news organisations have a culture similar to the military, there’s a chain of command and no leeway to make your own decisions. Journalism schools are equally structured.

That’s interesting, and I think it’s one of the cultural conflicts that I’m seeing as news organisations integrate their digital departments. For my first online journalism job in 1996, I was an army of one. The news director admitted she could manage everyone’s time in the newsroom down to the second except me. My next jobs at Advance Internet (MLive.com) and the BBC, I was either part of a small team or working in a foreign bureau, far from the command centre. It’s a challenge as we move from these flat, often extremely collaborative, environments to these military environments with a lot hierarchy and rank. In some ways, it’s a sign of the success of the digital departments that they are being brought into the core of the business, but hopefully, the departments can be integrated without losing the collaborative spirit.

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