Journalism identity in a digital world

Posted on October 22, 2010

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About a week ago I was sifting through the usual links from the organizations I follow on Facebook when a post from NPR radio caught my eye. The article essentially questioned the validity of journalism schools in a time when Twitter, Facebook and other social media are used to acquire news. Of course you have to ask yourself why any parent would fork out $50 000 a year to send their kid to any top dollar journalism school when news of newspaper layoffs and news organizations declaring bankruptcy continues to feature in your RSS feed.

Of course this is a problem and probably anyone’s concern when they consider what degree to study for in order to acquire gainful employment after spending four years crushing beers and putting themselves at risk of STDs. What should high school seniors do? Apply to study a craft that seems to be heading out the door or take a risk and see where they will end up.

I posed the question of journalism schools to my media management lecturer, Mark Deuze, who came up with this lovely answer, via Twitter of course: “i’d say purpose of contemporary j-schools is to train students not for the INDUSTRY, but for the IDENTITY of JOURNALIST.” Yes, that is a total mind screw!

In his opinion the role of a journalist (to collate, write and disseminate news) is something that we ALL participate in ala Henry Jenkins’ participatory culture. His theory being that in our web2.0 world media consumers are not only consuming media but taking part in its creation.

But then what is the journalistic identity? It made sense to me during one of “think dreams” when one realized that just because you studied to be a journalist does not mean you will work as a journalist. Journalism training is a dime a dozen and there are schools well worth the century old bricks their buildings are made out of. But at the end of the day what you need to know are the: who, what, where, when, why and how – and all of these can be negated with the right tweet or picture upload. Yet the identity of a journalist basically says that you not only see these elements but you also know how to tell the story in such a way that it is compelling even if it’s Lindsay Lohan heading to jail AGAIN!

It’s knowing but not necessarily doing and doing it with everyone else but doing it well.

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Posted in: Journalism