There’s an interesting relationship that exists between the academic world and the professional one. The goal of most J-schools is to prepare students to enter and succeed in a professional newsroom. At the same time, the academic setting provides unique opportunities for experimentation that aren’t available in most newsrooms. These opportunities often mean that colleges and universities set the direction for the profession.
In some cases, the two roles of academia conflict. In the March issue, we ran a story about students who experienced “techno-shock” when they graduated. After spending four years surrounded by the updated computer equipment of a college campus, they went to work in small- to mid-sized newsrooms that had far fewer resources.
Of course, computers aren’t going anywhere, and those students will eventually benefit from the exposure they received in college. But now educational institutions and the journalism profession are engaged in a more uncertain guessing game – predicting the direction of media convergence. This game is far more difficult. While few really doubted computers would become increasingly important newsroom tools, it’s less clear whether the “cross-media journalist” – the reporter who can write updates for the Web, edit together video for an evening broadcast and then write an in-depth piece for the next morning’s paper – will be the model for covering news in the future.
Schools are still trying to expose their students to different news delivery methods – many schools are investing millions of dollars into state-of-the-art, multimedia facilities so students can get hands-on exposure to different media – but there is a renewed emphasis on the basics of strong journalism. On Page 10, our cover story examines changes to the initial predictions of the do-it-all journalist and the idea that good reporting is good reporting no matter what form it takes.
Nobody really knows what the newsroom – or the journalist – of the future is going to look like. And academia must carefully balance the focusing of that vision with providing soon-to-be professionals the tools to excel in today’s journalism world.
Jeff Mohl is the editor of Quill.