OK, let’s all give up then, I guess…

Let’s take a logical walk through this column: Traditional
media are dying, not because people hate news, but because newspapers (and TV
stations) enjoyed monopoly status for so long that they no longer can turn 30
percent profit margins for stock holders who would invest in toilet seats if
they turned a profit. Thus, ugly whackings are continuing throughout the land,
with many good journalists finding their asses fired at the point in their
lives where they can a) no longer get a good second career going and b) find a
job that will pay them what they had gotten used to making. Scheer’s question:
Why do we still have journalism schools if we don’t have places to put the
people out there now, let alone all these new people who are coming down the

The fallacy here is multi-fold: First, journalism schools aren’t
responsible for making the market. They are responsible for teaching people a
skill set that can be plied in a variety of trades. Sure, I’ve had kids who
went into traditional media, but I’ve also had kids who went into completely
different directions, but felt ready to do so based on what they learned in
journalism school. I had a kid go into counter-terrorism for the government,
another went into a federal research program, a third who works in tourism and
the list can go on for pages. The one that always got me was the
counter-terrorism student who told me that what I taught her in the student
newspaper newsroom was what helped her do her job well. I didn’t get it, but
then she explained it to me and it made sense. We really are teaching
transferrable skills like critical thinking, effective communication,
interpersonal interactions and research. We’re not a pure trade school where
we’re teaching lead type maintenance.

Second, and more importantly, why is it that we’re asking
this question of journalism as if it is the only major that is in trouble? Is
there now a massive market for philosophy majors? Take a run through a college
catalog and you’ll see a whole bunch of majors that don’t have a direct
attachment to a specific field, but we still get kids wanting to major in those
things. How about all those “starving artist” art majors? Also, if I’m not
mistaken, a lot of manufacturing jobs are getting cut, but you don’t see trade
schools being told, “hey ease off the graduations, will ya?” Exactly what the
hell are college kids supposed to major in? Is there this wild, untapped bin of
jobs that kids are just overlooking? Everything in the economy is in the
toilet, so why not pick something you WANT to learn and stick with it?

Finally, the dumbest argument is that journalism schools are
essentially creating a pyramid scheme in which younger people are replacing
older people and we should some way be ashamed of that. We’re not the only
field in which people are looking at the idea of trading in a 30-year vet for
several 20-year-olds. Dad took early retirement due to a golden handshake deal
meant to get some of the older guys to leave so newer guys could come in at a
lower rate of pay and they could infuse some new skills into the company. (OK,
it was probably mostly the money.) Mom often hears how many freshly minted
grads could be hired with her salary if she’d just retire. (Never mind that
she’s running circles around her younger colleagues. Apparently, money is
easier to measure than quality.) In addition, if we were to STOP turning out
grads, would this stop? Probably not. They’d pick up even less qualified people
who don’t learn the skill, but were still amazingly cheap.

The reason that Scheer is suddenly alarmed is because this
stuff is now happening in his field. Richard Pryor was fond of saying that the
word “epidemic” was only applied to the country’s drug problem when it started
happening to white folks, too. For years, media wanks clucked their tongues at
other businesses that seemed unable to handle financial issues well or turn out
more grads than the field had room for. Now that it’s happening to us, rather
than sack up and become innovative, Scheer would have us all give up.

If that’s really how you feel, Pete, feel free to pony up
your job. I’m sure there are couple 22-year-old kids out here at my paper who
would be more than capable of writing just as stupid of stuff as you are.

9 thoughts on “OK, let’s all give up then, I guess…

  1. We really are teaching transferrable skills like critical thinking, effective communication, interpersonal interactions and research.
    Not to mention the ability to stay awake for three days straight without hallucinating, the disinclination to take no for an answer, a sense of perspective that tells you any day that doesn’t end with a 911 call is a good one, and an appreciation for whatever food can most easily be scarfed in one’s car while driving 90 mph down the freeway. Plus how to jury-rig shit to get your work done no matter what else is on fire.

  2. C’mon, Doc.
    You know that the reason that traditional media are dying is Athenae.
    Haven’t you learned that by now?

  3. Being an academic librarian, I can’t help but note many of the same issues in librarianship. (In fact, the library school at my Alma, USC (the real one on the east coast) has merged with the journalism school)).
    We also routinely negotiate with journal publishers who are trying to justify outrageous profits. Typical price increases for the 1990s were around 10 to 12% per year and for this century have been around 4 to 6%. At the same time, it is clear that for the last 20 years the publishers have been trying anything and everything to find a business model that works **FOR THEM**.
    One of the newer outrages is that the print journal was usually a flat rate for academic libraries (now that flat rate could be a couple of times higer than the individual copy to some prestigious journals could even get away with 10 x).
    The next fad was based on the number of students.
    Now many are moving to a tiered system. Some tiered systems seem reasonable. But the bigger journals are where basically Community colleges pay the lowest tier. If you grant a Bachelors you pay higher, if you grant a Doctrate you pay higher.
    Well my school has 640 students. I am in a county of 15,000 people. By the tiered pricing, they think I should pay the same as UCLA as we are the same size (even though my entire county isn’t as big as UCLA).
    Highest tier are schools with more than one campus. We have a sister campus with 1,000 students. So the total of us and them is 1600 students. According to some of the bigger publishers, we should pay the same as the entire Univ of California system.
    Add into this that we are a medical school with a strong tendency for our docs to enter primary care in rural areas. Quality healthcare depends on access to quality information. Yet these prestigious publishers seem to want to price their products out of availability for the rural docs – In short, another area for healthcare reform.

  4. More or less the same thing happens in technical writing, too. That’s of course assuming that you can actually get IT companies to hire writers in the first place, instead of just making their programmers miserable by making them write documentation, and making their users miserable because the documentation was written by (miserable) programmers.

  5. Interrobang – or may I add doing a really terrible translation of the Foreign Language documentation.

  6. Today i listed to a couple of This American Life episodes. And one of things they talked about was the financial industry. They did some real reporting and then because the industry was so uptight that they didn’t want to talk on the record they did an amusing bit about what they could have said. Not journalism but using some of the same skills.
    Then I listened to Michael Moore talk about his new movie. He said that all these people at Harvard and other top schools went into the finance industry. So all our supposed ‘best minds’ were going into that to make a lot of money. But of course we don’t have a lot of great minds going into the regulation of these folks.
    The journalists could have done some of this work but if no one is going to pay for this well too bad for democracy. Too bad for America.
    Rich banksters take over the country, nobody is positioned to thwart them. No 4th estate, no government. The people who might be mobs with torches have been so confused they think Obama is to blame for the Bush and Banksters plunder.
    You know, I didn’t go into journalism because I wasn’t a good writer.

  7. Uh, this is distressing. This person can write in complete sentences and still believes that there is such a thing as journalism in this oligarchy. Sorta shows just how stupid people get when they spend their entire lives looking for another corporate ass to suck up to.
    Hey you fucking idiot, it is all propaganda. Wake up,smell the shit and stop wasting trees putting out “news”papers. I need the damn tree to suck up CO2 a hell of a lot more than I need your vapid, corporate cocksucking opinion.
    Now go suck up the tailpipe of a car and tell me that you have a useful function. You don’t. Suicide? Nah, you are a journalist and no journalist ever commits suicide, they don’t have the guts or the self respect.
    Spoko, you rule, but there is no such thing as journalism in american propaganda sheets.

  8. Spocko,
    TAL is one of the bright resources in the “journalism” world. Something worth supporting directly. And I have.
    We’re you able to listen to the two separate shows on “Health Care” they’ve run the past few weeks? Absolutely, positively exceptionalprogramming. Something you cannot find in the “traditional” media world much less in the corporate propaganda media of “talk radio” and Fox.

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