Think Like an Editor blog by Steve Davis and Emilie Davis, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University

Your turn to tell us what you think

By · Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Today we are turning over our blog to you, our readers.

Perhaps you already have read the piece in The Nation titled “Where is Journalism School Going?” If not, would you take a few minutes to read it now?

Since our book is all about thinking, and since we are journalists who now teach in “the” best communications school, the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, we are interested in hearing your thoughts and insights about author Michael Tracey’s take on journalism schools and the profession.

What do you think? Comment here. Thank you!


By Mark Obbie on June 3rd, 2011 at 8:09 AM

What a joke. Obviously, I have a bias — I teach journalism. But this writer (whose bio discloses that his big claim to fame was as a Nation intern … all of one year ago) has no idea what he is talking about. Near the end of an incoherent, wildly unfocused tour through his prejudices and assumptions, he posits that the best journalism education is hands-on work with experienced journalists. Well, duh. And that’s what the best journalism education is, paired with a solid grounding in the liberal arts (which he also allows is a good thing). Journalism, I agree, cannot be taught without tons of practice. We journalism professors — nearly all of whom have significant, ongoing experience as practicing journalists — give beginners the sort of one-on-one attention they’ll rarely find in the workplace. So, once I avoid Tracey’s many side trips into marketing and the job market and objectivity (all of which show a remarkable lack of reporting rigor and intellectual clarity), I agree with him. But he could use a lot more practice in the fundamentals if he wants to make it in this business. I could suggest a school or two he should consider.

I’m not a journalist, but my work requires me to read newspapers published in all major English-speaking countries. If (and I emphasize IF)a blurring of the lines is occurring between “journalism” and “marketing”, this reminds me of the state of medicine today, in which some pharmaceutical companies not only subsidize medical research but also market the pharmaceutical products that are being researched. Many of us who work in the biomedical area are uneasy about this.

By Mark Obbie on June 3rd, 2011 at 8:37 AM

The blurry-line argument about the business — which is where the writer first seems to focus — clearly is an issue (though I’m not sure it’s best illustrated by Northwestern’s decision to broaden its name beyond a J-school, since indeed it teaches more than journalism). But if standards are crumbling, isn’t that an argument FOR an education in the professional standards that maintain important distinctions? Or maybe the writer is talking about the trend toward entrepreneurial journalism, which rightly pushes writers to engage readers in more ways and in new places — but all in the service of making our work more visible and useful. All that the writer seems to conclude seems based on a conversation with a friend who believes he’s met lots of journalism grads not working in their chosen field.