Media Finally Scores Academia

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

At Accuracy in Academia and our big sister group Accuracy in Media we endeavor to give both of those institutions constructive criticism. Ergo, it amuses us to see them turn on each other.

Usually, reporters speed-dial their favorite tenured professors when they want a learned sound bite. Professors, in turn, hector their students to read the New York Times.

Completing the symbiotic relationship, journalism schools train journalists. Thus, the powers-that-be at the Poynter Institute must have reacted with shock and awe when they found out how little assignment editors thought of that training:

  • Today, 96 percent of journalism educators believe that a journalism degree is very important to extremely important when it comes to understanding the value of journalism. However, only 57 percent of media professionals believe the same.
  • More than 80 percent of educators but only 25 percent of media professionals say a journalism degree is extremely important when it comes to learning newsgathering skills.
  • Thirty-nine percent of educators say journalism education is keeping up with industry changes a little or not at all. Editors and staffers are even harsher, with 48 percent saying the academy isn’t keeping up with changes in the field.
  • Thinking back to the last person their organization hired, only 26 percent of media professionals say the person had “most” or “all” of the skills necessary to be successful.

The quotes they collected from both sides give some idea of the disconnect between classroom and newsroom:

  • Neil Foote, a principal lecturer in the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas: “We have to blow up our current curriculum to understand how this generation of students learns— and how they can best use their talents to become the communications leaders of today— and tomorrow.”
  • Barbara Allen, student media adviser and lecturer at Oklahoma State University:”Even motivated, well-intentioned journalism educators are hamstrung when facing monstrous academic bureaucratic hurdles. Our lack of dexterity hinders our students.”
  • Adam Bagni, sports anchor and reporter for WJAR: “Students need to be ready to shoot, edit, write, use social media, and work quickly…and most of them aren’t. In general, it’s difficult to find people talented enough to perform all of those skills well.”

Twenty years ago, Michael Lewis did a devastating critique of, arguably, the most famous journalism training program in the U. S.—at Columbia University entitled, “J-School Ate My Brain.” Apparently j-schools are still gorging.


Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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