Some 96 percent of journalism educators believe that a journalism degree is very important or extremely important when it comes to understanding the value of journalism. By contrast, 57 percent of media professionals believe that a journalism degree is key to understanding the value of their field.
Perhaps even more significant, more than 80 percent of educators say a journalism degree is extremely important when it comes to learning news gathering skills, compared to 25 percent of media professionals. One in five media professionals finds a degree in the discipline is not at all important or only slightly important in learning news gathering.
Should journalism school place more focus on teaching “new multimedia skills”?
Finberg, who authored the study, attributed the discrepancy in part to a kind of digital divide between journalism school curriculums and what’s expected of journalists in the field. Working journalists feel the demand for new multimedia skills that may or may not be part of traditional journalism coursework, he said, leading them to question the value of degrees in the discipline.
Or should they simply concentrate more on fundamental skills?
But given that modern journalism is a kind of moving target, experts said, programs can’t afford to lose sight of the fundamentals: good storytelling and strong writing and problem-solving skills.
“It is in no way possible for journalism schools to keep up with all the industry changes because journalism itself isn’t keeping with the technological changes,” said Sonny Albarado, president of the Society of Professional Journalists and projects editor at the ArkansasDemocrat-Gazette. “It’s important to be exposed to whatever the dominant or latest technology is, but that varies from place to place.”
Albarado said he prefers to hire reporters with journalism degrees, due to their training, but he wouldn’t exclude applicants with English degrees, for example.
Ultimately, he said, “I just want somebody who can write and think critically – and spell.”
The new media skills are relatively easy to acquire, but fundamental writing skills and critical thinking usually take years to learn.
It seems that a rigorous liberal arts education would be an excellent way to prepare for a journalism career. Nate Silver thinks economics or math are good majors for journalists to meet the increasing importance of data-driven reporting.