obs in your newsroom?

Posted by: Howard Owens at October 8, 2002 04:39 PM

My experience with J-school training:

I was briefly on a journalism track about 20 years ago, first as editor of a community college paper (tremble before my power!) and then for two
miserable semesters at the University of Florida College of Journalism (which supposedly had some prestige at the time). When I couldn't take it anymore, I transferred to the most useless major I could think of (linguistics) where I'm still happily theorizing about the implications of Vietnamese pronouns and other vital issues.

What I noticed: The bulk of J-school training was intended to take people who had no idea of how to construct a sentence, much less a paragraph or entire article and give them some basic skills in very basic writing. That's not what they said they did (insert crap about honing investigative and critical skills blah blah blah) but it was what was really going on. It was so forumlaic I would have thought a bonobo could learn it in a week, but US university students were struggling mightily and some took two or three passes thru basic reporting before they could pass it. I didn't detect any special political bias in my short time there but there was a fair amount of (what I perceived as) contempt for the people the students would presumably be writing for in the (then) future.

I _could_ do what they wanted, it wasn't hard, but most of the time I just wasn't interested in doing so, especially in class for a grade. I also hated (and still hate) the process of writing but I do like having written and especially like seeing my name in print so I hung around the student-run newspaper writing the occasional feature for a few semesters until time constraints made it impossible. Many of the Alligator regulars weren't journalism majors but they all could write on deadline passably well.

I was reminded of what (Jodie Foster?) once said that acting school couldn't make you good (much less great), but it could make you okay if you didn't have any natural talent or inclination. I think pretty much the same thing about journalism (and teaching colleges for that matter).

Posted by: michael farris at October 9, 2002 05:46 AM
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