Wick Communications

Should you change your major?

In journalism on May 4, 2012 at 9:20 am

The other day, Roger Ailes apparently told an audience at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, that the journalism majors among the crowd should change their major. Interesting position for a man who is the CEO and president of a large news operation.

The Fox News chief went on to say a bunch of disparaging things about the state of journalism generally. He seems to think most journalists not under his employ are lemmings who simply lean left with the crowd. You can read some of the highlights of his speech here. He’s entitled to his opinion.

Well, here’s mine.

  • Journalism students today are smarter, more adaptive than ever before. Unlike their predecessors (me, for example) they possess technical skills, such as video production and Web design, that make them more employable than peers who come to the news profession from other college pursuits.
  • They are more hungry for mentors than those who came before them. They are more likely to gain experience through internships – and they won’t settle for busy work and errands. …
  • They are far more collaborative than they used to be. They learn to work in teams to produce complex multimedia projects that are often much, much better than those put together by the local professional newspaper.
  • They are entrepreneurial. For better or worse, the career ladder is missing a few rungs these days, so enterprising young journalists are providing their own platforms for telling stories.
  • They are persistent. They have to be. Even presidents of news organizations are telling them they are wasting their time. Anyone who enters a college journalism program today must really want to do the work.

The news isn’t all good. I don’t think they are better writers than journalism students of previous generations. Some seem more reticent to question authority than they were before. Some are distracted and entitled. But on balance, today’s journalism students are better prepared than ever.  I’ll bet Roger Ailes has hired a few good ones himself. I know he has fond memories of his own college journalism career. Here’s what he told the Ohio University Outlook when he gave that university a bunch of money.

“Ohio University ignited my interest in broadcasting, which became my lifetime career. The education I received there gave me the opportunity to take on my first managerial responsibilities and provided early lessons in leadership. I’m happy to contribute to a great university.”

On that we agree.

Clay

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