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Journalism schools should be abolished
by Jake Highton
Nov 14, 2012 | 7187 views | 8 8 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Emory College in Atlanta is closing its journalism program. All other journalism programs in the country should do likewise.

“It’s not our job as a liberal arts college to simply train people to be professional journalists,” Emory Arts & Science Dean Robin Forman said.

He’s right about abolition. But the biggest problem is that major J schools are hag-ridden with PhDs, scholars and theorists. They teach “coding,”  “aggregated content” and social media networking. They create “apps” and computer games.

A PhD journalism professor just a wrote book discussing “ethnographic field work,” “ontological bedrock,” “epistemology,” “isomorphism,” “situated learning,” “constitutive rule,” “high modern phase of journalism” and “the theory of journalism.”

To PhDs, newspaper reporting and writing are afterthoughts. But this is hardly new. It has just gotten worse.

The Association for Education in Journalism at its annual convention in 1965 had divisions of theory and methodology, public relations, radio-TV, magazine and international relations. It had no newspaper division.

At the AEJ convention a year earlier, a professor said he believed the Freedom of Information bill had been passed recently by the Senate. It had been enacted by Congress and signed by the president two months earlier. Apparently reading a newspaper is unacademic.

Dickens in the Pickwick Papers satirized such academic folderol with the Pickwickians accepting a paper on “Speculations on the Source of the Hampstead Ponds with some Observations on the Theory of the Tittlebats.”

Academe magazine (May-June 2011) cited the anti-intellectualism prevailing in J schools. It noted that academic disciplines like media history and public affairs reporting have been eliminated, replaced by sports writing, sports public relations and sports marketing, ecommerce, web design and animation.

Blame it on the PhDs. Communicology has ruined J schools.

When Joseph Pulitzer founded the journalism school at Columbia he declared: “It will be the object of the school to make better journalists, who will make better newspapers, which will better serve the public.”

Fine aim. But Columbia succumbed to the chi-squares (PhD’s). A devastating article in the New Republic in 1993 quoted a Columbia professor as constantly asking what was “the null hypothesis” of stories students wrote. One exasperated student finally blurted out: “My null hypothesis is that the Columbia Journalism School is all bullshit!”

People who want to be journalists certainly need a college education, just not a journalism degree. They need a much wider range of knowledge. They need literature, prose and poetry. They need knowledge of movies, history, art and classical music and opera. They need to be abreast of the politics and news of America and the world.

Most journalism professors are mediocre. They have no passion except for the views of the reigning Establishment and corporate media.

  Advertising? It’s a craft, a skill — but it is the art of selling which should not be taught in J schools. Public relations? It is ‘spinmeistering.’ It is flackery which has no place in J schools.

Moreover, J school professors are softies, giving out far too many good grades to average students. A study of the 2008-2009 school year at the University of Nevada, Reno J school showed 76 percent of the students got A’s or B’s (33 percent A’s and 43 percent B’s).

Finally, the learned professors know nothing about writing and can’t teach it. They make a mockery of journalism education.

Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
December 12, 2012
Oh wow, a Journalism professor talking down to his associates. I think Highton needs to get off his High Horse.
December 06, 2012
Now explain to us HOW this all has come about over the years.

THAT would be an interesting (and less whiny and petulant) article I'd actually be interested in reading...
December 01, 2012
Having just graduated from the graduate "program" there with a less than positive experience after being told I could find a Job in "two seconds" after graduating, I can speak to both points. Keeping in mind there were four deans in just the two years I was there, the last job I applied to at a TV station told me they'd "never had a master's degree applicant and wouldn't know what to do with you."

I admit that since my departure I was wondering what happened to the last two years of my life but reading this helps brings some closure. Although I never knew you Mr. Highton, thank you for helping me put 2012 behind me.
Joe LaRocca
November 30, 2012
Hi Jake - I'm proud to say after more than 40 years in journalism, I never attended J-School One newspaper for hich I worked in Ohio considered J-School a disqualification for working there.
Brad Hippert
November 27, 2012
It's quite ironic that a journalism professor from UNR is basically calling the other journalism professors "Hacks". It seems to me that this is an extreme version of the old adage of "The kettle calling the pot black"! Mr. High ton it seems, has just disparaged the very institution where he works and furthermore, the very craft he chose to teach.
UNR Student
November 26, 2012
Excuse me, but why is he a professor then? Absolutely ridiculous.
Another UNR Student
November 26, 2012
Be the change you want to see.
Heywood Jablome
November 24, 2012
And get off Professor Highton's lawn!
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