By Ryan Broderick, Editor-at-Large
There's a bottomless pit that communication students are graduating into right now. The Internet has changed a lot and like every new form of media, it's reorganizing the way things are done and the way people communicate and work. Part of that reorganization is the so-called extinction of the journalist.
At least, that's how it's being presented. Journalism professors have taught me from my very first day of my very first Journalism class that "the world of journalism, as you know it, is changing." And it all sounds and seems very ominous and spooky.
I have spent two-and-a-half-years in the University's Journalism program being pulled from one end of the Chicken-Little-sky-is-falling spectrum to the other. In some classes I'm pushed toward the essentials of Deep Throat era journalism, warned that without a heavy mastery of the essentials I'll be lost in the fray. In other classes I'm forced to learn "cutting edge" fads, berated with a curriculum that is closer to a "how to be an Internet celebrity guide" than a journalism course--Dear Professors currently teaching in Dempster, if Twitter's the future of journalism then I'm dropping out of school and becoming a stripper.
So now as I'm rounding my last year-and-a-half at Hofstra, I'm learning how to sift through the panicked curriculum of professors feeling the pull of the same pit we're all graduating into. And if professors are scared of an antiquated view of journalism forcing them into retirement, how do you think students feel about paying $40,000 a year to get wiped out by the Web 2.0 meteorite?
The problem has to do with confidence. If the Internet is a chaotic frenzy of adopting and abandoning fads, then maybe our department should have the confidence to be static.
The second newspapers started disappearing, the Earth started to shatter beneath people's feet and change all of human existence forever. It's not that groundbreaking. News still happens, people still want to read it (more than ever really) and reporters still have to compete to deliver it.
And for people who report the news all day and night, if the idea that communication styles and methods can change is so groundbreaking, then you don't deserve to have a job. Blame it on me being naïve, but if you're going to deliver the news and it's your two-fold job to cover a story as completely as possible and then to cover it in a way that's interesting and dynamic, why wouldn't that carry over to the Internet?
Perfect example is music. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is literally ripping their hair out and suing everyone and their grandmother in an attempt to combat the trade of free music online. The music industry is in complete and total chaos, musicians are at a loss for how to sell their music and everyone's terrified. Yet, somehow, someway, Hofstra still has a music school and a pretty thorough one I've heard.
So please explain to me why an industry in flux has to mean a curriculum in chaos. The same way the musical notes of C through B will never change, the way you assemble a news story won't either.
And then there's the huge debate about competition from citizen journalists, blogs, aggregators and all sorts of other Internet buzz words that make students squirm and professors get all sullen and apocalyptic.
Well I can guarantee that no matter how many hyperlinks I use or embedded videos or dynamic pictures or groundbreaking infographics I throw together, none of that matters if the story isn't interesting or well written.
So yes, acknowledge the industry crisis, teach the new methods, but more than that, just teach students to be versatile enough to learn on their own. Teach them how to be flexible and do whatever they can whenever they can.
Hopefully a few professors will read this and share their thoughts. And just because I know newspapers are dead, after this gets published, I'll be tweeting it; 140 characters at a time.