Monday, November 17, 2014

And the best journalism program is ...

Everyone loves a list, otherwise Buzzfeed would be out of business.

Most lists come with little or no explanation of how they were generated. Methodology is ignored -- especially if its more smoke-and-mirrors than methodology. Which brings us to a list published a year ago, one we at UGA loved (because we finished 3rd) and some of us loathed (because of the iffy methodology). Faculty could, ahem, (*cough* *cough*) recruit folks to vote for their school. And yes, after the poll Grady promoted its 3rd place finish. What you end up with is a biased beauty contest.

RTDNA is doing its survey again. It warns: 
Please submit your response to the survey only once. Multiple submissions will be disregarded.
Which is good, if enforceable. If you follow the link, you get the following page:

Below is a list of suggested programs you can type into the five spaces. I did, tossing in random schools and even one not on the list, then I got a screen asking for my reason for #1. Skipped that. Then the survey asks:
If you were to advise journalism programs about the single most important class they could have to prepare today's young people for a career in journalism, what would it be?
That's an interesting and important question. A cynic might recommend a class in survey sampling, but the obvious answer is Data Journalism, so just write that in and keep me employed. Then you're asked for "professional status." I put "Educator" (many might quibble with that, yet "Whisky Drinker" wasn't available). You get asked a filler "anything else" question and poof, you're done.

Yes, but can you go back and do the survey again?

Short answer ... no.
Long answer ... yes.

Just clear your cookies (find how depending on your browser) and the link returns you to the survey. Fill it out, clear cookies. Rinse and repeat, voting early and often (if that's your thing). Results out on Dec. 15.

Setting aside how to hack a SLOP, what does it mean to be a "best" journalism program?  Hell if I know. A lot of it is reputation. The traditionally top programs draw the best students, which leads to the best graduates, which leads to a sustained reputation. Plus the more grads you have, the more you can persuade into voting for you and thus skewing the results. It sure as hell can't hurt to be a grad from a "top-rated" program when out on the job market, so vote for your school. It's in your own best interest.
You can succeed in journalism without ever having stepped into a j-school, which suggests such lists should never be taken too seriously. Rarely do people report the caveats of how they created a list, similar to that of (irony alert) certain student news broadcasts when they report SLOPS as part of their newscast. Or used to.

But let's face it, even in a bad list ya still want to come out on top. So vote Grady. Vote early. And vote often.

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