Is journalism school still relevant?

It’s a three-peat!

For the third year running, newspaper reporter is the worst job in America, as determined by careercast.com .

The job hunting website looks at a job’s environment, income and employment prospects as well as stresses like stability and danger, to rate 200 careers. According to the survey, newspaper reporter ranks lower than soldier, logger or pest exterminator.

With such a dismal assessment, along with an ever-shrinking job market as traditional media like newspapers and broadcast shrink newsrooms, consolidate or shut altogether, serious questions are being asked about the relevance of journalism schools that continue to pump thousands of grads every year into a career that can no longer sustain them.

It’s not much fun being a journalist these days. Reporters are perpetually haunted by the scythe of unemployment swinging ever lower as traditional media outlets struggle to reinvent themselves in the digital era of social media and instant messaging. Mostly that reinvention consists of cutting costs as much as possible, then cutting some more, in a desperate attempt to maintain profit levels.

Instead of trading war stories from in the field, we gather in the lunchrooms and around the bulletin board to trade rumours about impending buyout offers, looming layoffs.

Even after eight months since my own paper closed, and my 30-year career as a photojournalist and multimedia journalist was cut down at the knees, I don’t miss that daily dose of gloom and doom.

But I don’t regret the education path I took to launch that career.

Time and again, as I search for meaningful work that will fuel my creativity as a storyteller as well as recharge my bank account, I see “Journalism” pop up in job ads as a desirable education or experience attribute.

The tools of journalism: curiosity, empathy, the ability to ask questions, gather information, find context, get to the core of a story and then convey that simply and succinctly in either words or photos, transfer to many careers. And, if my experience scanning job ads daily is any indication, the range of those careers is only growing.

Smart companies and organizations are realizing the best way to connect with their audience of customers is emotionally, by building a relationship. The foundation of that emotional bond used to be slick, intelligent campaigns borne from market research and devised by ad copywriters. Social media eliminates the need for that middleman.

Companies and organizations can communicate directly with consumers, wrest control of their story away from the suits on Madison Avenue.

But it can’t happen off the side of someone’s already full desk.

And so whole new job titles and classifications are being created every day: digital content manager; engagement specialist; even marketing journalist. Almost all those jobs are looking for someone with journalism education or experience. But they’re also seeking a background in marketing, branding, search engine optimization, communications strategy. Those are skills you’re likely to learn in business school.

Journalism school is still relevant and valuable. Prospective journalists heading into post-secondary education need to look past the increasingly obsolete career path as a reporter for traditional media and guide their storytelling skills to very specific outlets that value a professional telling their story.

Complement those basic reporting courses with subjects like marketing and communications. At the very least, if you do land a rare gig at a newspaper or broadcast outlet, you’ll make a heck of a business reporter. But you’ll have a lot more job prospects, security and growth potential outside that rut.

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