Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Same as it ever was

Alana Taylor sits in a classroom at the NYU journalism school, looks at her clueless professor and finds the whole experience wholly outdated and totally lacking.

I'll alert the media.

THEN ALL THE MEDIA and I -- we veterans of different debacles at different journalism schools at different points in history -- will go to a fine drinking establishment, knock back a few and laugh and laugh and laugh:
Back in class, Quigley tells us we have to remember to bring in the hard copy of the New York Times every week. I take a deep sigh. Every single journalism class at NYU has required me to bring the bulky newspaper. I don’t understand why they don’t let us access the online version, get our current events news from other outlets, or even use our NYTimes app on the iPhone. Bringing the New York Times pains me because I refuse to believe that it’s the only source for credible news or Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism and it’s a big waste of trees.

At least I had hoped that this class would be more advanced. I hoped that perhaps my teacher would be open to the idea of investigating other sources of news from the Internet and discussing how they are reliable or not. I hoped that she wouldn’t refer to podcasts as “being a pain to download” and that being aware of and involved in the digital era wasn’t just a “generational” thing.

I am convinced that I am taking the only old-but-new-but-still-old media class in the country. At this point I may not learn too much I don’t already know about my generation and where it’s taking journalism. But one thing’s for sure — I’m certainly going to gain some insight into what exactly they mean by generation gap.
AND YOU MAY ask yourself, well . . . how did we get here?

Same as it ever was . . . same as it ever was . . . same as it ever was. . . .

Back in my day at the LSU School of Journalism (now the
Manship School of Mass Communication), all we wanted was . . . well, what we wanted was a 1981 version of what Alana Taylor wants. That and electric typewriters in every classroom.

Why don't I share a bit from a hard-hitting story in the LSU student newspaper, The Daily Reveille. Someone I know rather well wrote it . . . 27 years ago.

From the Reveille of Oct. 16, 1981:
Equipment and facilities of the University's School of Journalism were criticized as being "antiquated" by Chancellor James Wharton in Thursday's edition of The Daily Reveille.

However, a recent sampling of journalism students say the school's facilities are only part of the problem there.

The students said they faced problems in dealing with typewriters and other equipment in bad repair, but said a far larger problem they faced was a curriculum short on practical experience in their fields.

Most of the sampling also said they felt the absence of video display terminals and other state-of-the-art equipment in the school hampered the students in preparing for future work experiences.

"I feel that (the lack of new equipment) is hurting the students' education. We have manual typewriters in our journalism typing room -- out in the field, not only are people not using manual typewriters, they're not even using electric typewriters. They're using VDTs," said junior news-editorial major Eleanor Ransburg.

"It's not keeping you up to date with what's going on now. We're learning the old ways. We should learn the old ways and the new ways.

"One of our guest speakers in class said he hadn't been in the building since he graduated and the chairs looked like the same ones that were here when he was here in the 1950s," she said.


[Junior advertising major Cindy]
Blanchard also said the advertising curriculum of the journalism school was deficient. "I think a lot of the teachers are good but I think a lot of the structuring is at fault.

"I think the structuring of the class is really kind of deficient. I think we learn more theory and not enough practical application. We don't get to put into practice what we learn in the book. What I've had so far is not too much of what I can use (in the field)," she said.
SAME AS IT EVER WAS. And yes, Alana, we Young Turks who somewhere along the way turned into journalism fossils feel your pain.

Does this ring a bell, by chance?

An associate managing editor for the student paper also criticized the school for not having enough equipment for its students, as well as School of Journalism Director John C. Merrill.

Lisa Schelp said Merrill is trying to "isolate" the school and train its students to be "academicians" instead of reporters and editors.

"Only having one video display terminal for 25 people in the reporting class is ridiculous, almost every newspaper has terminals," she said. "We don't even have newspapers in the journalism reading room. It doesn't make sense. What we need is exposure to many kinds of newspapers.

"I don't know what his (Merrill's) point is in trying to isolate the journalism school and make us all academicians. We're trying to communicate. We have to communicate with everybody, not just academicians," Schelp said.
LORD. Somebody at that journalism school ought to have said something to that intrepid Reveille reporter (again, with whom I'm well acquainted) about unloading every last jot out of his Stationers' Reporter's Note Book and dumping it into his story. Talk about making a point, rehashing it and then rehashing the rehash. . . .

Then again, back in the day, Reveille reporters got paid by the column inch. Whatever it takes, you know?

But down that path a tangent lies. Let me return to my point here.

Students are always pretty sure they're getting screwed over by somebody. Sometimes, it's even true. For instance, the LSU J-school, overall, was pretty appalling in 1981. Fortunately, our professors still taught us pretty well, despite everything.

Another truism is that journalism school -- or any kind of professional school, it seems to me -- always perfectly trains students for the world that just was. Never the world that will be.

The reason for that is staggeringly simple: We're really good at knowing what just was. And we're not so good at predicting the future. While we might have some general idea of what will be, the future likes to throw knuckleballs -- when it isn't throwing you curveballs.

The state of newspapers and broadcasting today is the curveball with which the future put my generation of J-school grads deep in a hole. When we were in college, there was no Internet for us to master, and "social networking" was Friday night at the Cotton Club. Or maybe the Bengal.

We never knew what hit us. But we're learning.

I suspect Alana Taylor, today's frustrated NYU student, will be doing the same in a couple of decades -- dealing with the unknowable curveball the future throws you while you're deeply engrossed in the World That Just Was.

1 comment:

PerfectMomentProject said...

hmm... some a story.. check out the summer these students had... It's Launch Day