Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Major Called "Newspapers"

I'm gonna stray a bit off the what people know track.

I teach in the Department of Journalism, yet we don't have a major called journalism. Instead we have three majors: newspapers, magazines, and publication management. Anyone with a clue about the changing dynamics of the news business realizes having a major called newspapers makes about as much sense a business school having a major called convenience store management. We teach journalism, not newspapers, not magazines. We teach it for dead trees and online and all the rest. Journalism is a verb, something you do.

And yes, turf protection rears its ugly little head. No place is so petty as academe. We don't want to upset anyone by having a major called journalism in what coincidentally is a Department of Journalism. Extend this brilliant line of thought to its logical and deeply disturbed conclusion and you can complain about Department of English having a major called English -- because, after all, many of us use English. Dammit, how dare they claim it!

Let the brainiacs run free and you arrive at only one possible answer -- we change our name to the Department of Newspapers and Magazines.

So can I drag this vent, kicking and screaming, back to a what people know discussion? Probably not well, though of course our curriculum influences what skills students have when they enter the market, which influences how news is produced, which influences what people learn about their social and political world. So yeah, all of this petty crap does make an indirect difference.

Except not, because we still have a major called newspapers. We're roaring fearlessly into the 1950s.


Stacey said...

On top of all of your excellent points, it sounds a little silly. It's quite obnoxious to have to explain to people my college major of "Magazines." Plus, my dad still makes fun of me for it. In the end, I just tell people my major was journalism anyway.

Laura L. Woodring said...

Newspaper Journalism is alive and well. I'm sort of insulted that you would claim otherwise. As a former student and now editor of The Andrews Journal, I remind you that community newspapers is where it's at and as long as there are mountain towns, there will be newspapers.

Hollander said...

Laura: Thanks for visiting. I love community papers. It's where I got my start and weeklies and small dailies are in decent economic shape, but renaming a major from newspapers to journalism better reflects what we teach, what people will be doing in 30 years, and let's face it -- has less a whiff of decay to it. I teach journalism, not newspapers. Where the journalism goes, online or on paper, is less an issue for me and for the future.

RosenKris said...

Taking the argument still further, the majors of advertising and public relations (both verbs) are also taught in the college of journalism...and neither, despite their many intersections with journalism and related requirements to write well and clearly, are in fact journalism. I'm a Grady PR grad. I tell people I have a degree in journalism, which I do (It does say ABJ on my copy), with a focus in PR.

It's time to elevate the craft of reporting a story - from cultivating contacts to constructing the narrative - above the medium in which it will be carried. The distinctions seem minor to the major. :)