Don’t Make Journalism School Free

March 21, 2024   |   Tags: , ,
Graduates throwing their caps in the air | Hxdbzxy |

The New York Times recently published an opinion piece by Graciela Mochkofsky, dean of the City University of New York's Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. She argued that churning out more journalism degree holders could help revitalize a dying industry, and that making such educational programs free is one way to do that.

"Journalists are essential just as nurses and firefighters and doctors are essential," she wrote. "And to continue to have journalists, we need to make their journalism education free."

Even setting aside the fact that nurses and doctors do not generally attend school for free—and that firefighters get training, not master's degrees—this diagnosis still makes very little sense. First, it's not clear that the market is asking for more journalists, and thus explicitly encouraging additional entrants into the field is a dubious proposition. Second, even if producing more journalists is a socially desirable goal, subsidizing journalism school is a poor way to achieve this. Indeed, it's perhaps something of an open secret among actually established journalists that majoring in journalism is often a mistake—and pursuing a graduate degree in journalism is an even worse one.

Mochkofsky likened journalists to doctors and firefighters, but the profession has far more in common with the latter than the former. Journalism is akin to a craft or a trade; it is distinctly unlike science. Aside from some minimal abilities that should be acquired during primary education—i.e., competent writing—the technical skills required to do it are best learned on the job from seasoned professionals during the course of an internship. These skills are not so complicated that they must be studied in a classroom with textbooks and formal instructors.

I've always found that writing itself is much like exercising: If you do it regularly, you get stronger and better at it, and if you stop doing it, you get weaker and worse at it. News stories aren't meant to be observed under a microscope; the best way to learn how to write them is to just start doing it.

In her 2021 book Bad News: How Woke Media Is Undermining Democracy, Batya Ungar-Sargon argued that over the course of the 20th century, journalism morphed from a respectable middle-class trade into an exclusively upper-class vocation as credentialism took hold. This transformation has not been good for the industry; the media now disproportionately consist of young people with exceedingly progressive and occasionally hostile views, and that's because journalism is increasingly the province of well-educated and wealthy elites.

It's true that making journalism school free would alleviate the latter problem, but it still robs aspiring journalists of vital years of their lives that they could spend actually practicing journalism. This creeping tendency in public policy to make ordinary work impossible unless and until would-be workers obtain a bunch of certificates is deeply pernicious, and contributes to the country's underemployment problem. Let J-school be the province of a small subset of academically inclined writers—most aspiring journalists need an apprenticeship, not a degree.


Skeptical SCOTUS

This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Murthy v. Missouri, a case that will determine whether federal agencies unconstitutionally pressured social media companies to censor speech. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson received much criticism for appearing to despair that the First Amendment might stop the government from doing just that, but in truth, a clear majority of the justices seemed skeptical that the feds' actions had crossed a line.

A loss for the plaintiffs would be deeply unfortunate. This case represents the Supreme Court's best chance to prevent jawboning by the White House, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security. These government entities did not merely ask social media platforms to take down contrarian speech—they implicitly and explicitly threatened to harm the companies if they did not comply.

We discussed the case on Rising with Twitter Files author Matt Taibbi. Watch below:


Worth Watching

It's time to start a re-watch of House of the Dragon. HBO just released two trailers for the hotly anticipated second season of the Game of Thrones prequel, which takes place a century and a half before the original series. While the later seasons of GoT were plagued with plotting issues, godawful dialogue, major inconsistencies, and even production errors, HotD's first season was as good as Thrones at its best. The second season will depict the Targaryen civil war: a bloody battle for the throne fought between two factions of the famed dragon-riding family. (If HotD has one flaw, it's that one side—Team Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy)—is about a thousand times more sympathetic than the other side, at least for now.)

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