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Journalism schools proliferate, jobs disappear

June 30, 2013

By Katherine Forestier

The proliferation of journalism programmes around the world came under scathing attack at the Worldviews conference for unscrupulously recruiting too many students for the limited jobs available, and for being ossified in their curricula.

The attack was made by Adrian Monck, former dean of City University of London’s journalism school and now managing director and head of communications and media for the World Economic Forum.

In the conference session “Something born or something bred? The necessity of the academy to train journalists”, Monck described journalism as “a lousy business” but journalism education as “a great business”.

“It is entirely unscrupulous of the academy to look at journalism education as a cash cow through which it can extort money from hopeful young people with the promise of delivery of some form of employment at the end of it,” he said.

The majority of students were set up to fail in programmes that defined success by being gateways to the top end of the “tiny profession”.

Monck estimated there were around 300 entry-level jobs in the mainstream media, but that close to 50,000 students were enrolled in journalism programmes in the UK.

He blamed the school system in his country, the UK, for driving too many young people to the courses: “It is turning out too many arts students trying to do something vaguely respectable.”

Courses were dominated by “smart young women who 25 years ago might have done history of art” whose families could afford the high costs. “Is that what we want the future of journalism to be?” he asked, adding that those with strong mathematical skills to read and report on data had better prospects in the profession.

He also criticised the university tenure system, saying the academy was “ossified”, unable to “rip up the curriculum and start again”.

Jeffrey Dvorkin, director of the University of Toronto’s journalism programme and executive director of the Organization of News Ombudsmen, agreed: “The professoriate is old compared with the state of the media culture now. People came into the journalism academia just before the digital disruption in the newsroom. As a result they are still teaching a curriculum valued in the 1990s but not now.

“The challenge for us as journalism educators is we don’t know what we should be teaching because the media organisations where our students may hopefully get jobs don’t know what they want either, and don’t know what they need.

“And there is the anxiety over the internet, as the saviour and villain of journalism.” Read the rest at the University World News.

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