In lieu of the regular member profile in Quill, this month’s SPJ Report takes a look back at a feature from the March 1995 issue. The following article reviews the efforts of then-NBC anchor Jane Pauley and SPJ to examine the readiness of broadcast journalism students when seeking jobs in newsrooms. Pauley will speak April 17, 2009, when the Society celebrates its Centennial in Greencastle, Ind., where in 1909 10 students at DePauw University founded the organization. She will be on hand for her induction into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame. A graduate of Indiana University, Pauley was born in Indianapolis and started her career at WISH-TV, the city’s CBS affiliate. This year also marks a significant anniversary for Pauley: 30 years as a member of SPJ.
The Society of Professional Journalists and NBC anchor Jane Pauley launched a one-year study of U.S. mass communication education programs last month in Washington, D.C. The study will assess the quality of academic programs as preparation for careers in broadcast journalism.
The SPJ Task Force on Mass Communications is a blue-ribbon panel of professors and TV directors who will spend a year looking at college programs aimed at the radio and TV news business. Print programs could become part of the project in the future, but are not included now.
Pauley donated seed money for the project and will be honorary chair. Lee Giles, news director at WISH-TV in Indianapolis, will chair the committee of eight news directors and six journalism instructors.
“We hope to give educators and students clear and better guidance on how best to prepare the television and radio journalists of tomorrow,” says SPJ President Reginald Stuart.
Based on her discussions with students, Pauley doubts college and university programs are giving students a well-rounded education that will prepare them for jobs in newsrooms.
“They have no appreciation of how competitive the business is,” Pauley says. If they knew while in college, would they still seek jobs in the business? she asks. Current statistics suggests 10 graduates for each available job in TV news.
Pauley, an SPJ fellow and luncheon speaker at the 1994 Nashville convention, says students also need to know more about the expectations of potential employers.
“Shouldn’t they know what their options are? Shouldn’t they know what kind of preparation would impress the news director?”
Pauley, a long-time SPJ member, developed the idea for the study — which was embraced by Stuart and SPJ’s board. She says many college students don’t understand the rigors of the business. The resulting inability of students to meet the challenges in the workplace concerns her.
She says journalism education has a “credibility problem.” The task force, she says, will come up with recommendations that could help make a degree in communications more valuable. Perhaps, she said after the conference, her perceptions are wrong.
“I am prepared to hear better news.
Latest figures show growing enrollment even as jobs are staying flat,” Pauley says.
And fewer than 25 percent of graduates end up in the business. In addition, she says the task force should develop guidelines for required knowledge for new broadcasters.
“This effort will look at how to make sure they’re not just well trained, but highly literate,” Pauley says.
As part of the research, SPJ has hired Lee Becker and Gerald Kosicki of Ohio State University to conduct scientific research that will become a foundation for the discussion.
Becker and Kosicki last year reported that mass communications graduates “were having a considerably harder time finding full-time work than in 1986,” when they first began tracking the success of students in getting jobs.