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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Tirade 

This is a tirade, so those of you who like dispassionate opinion may skip today's entry.

The tirade concerns a conversation I had recently with a young college student attending a well known university. I asked her what she is studying, and she told me broadcast journalism. I asked her what that consisted of, and she said newswriting and anchoring. Anchoring? I stared at her.

"Do you mean," I said "you are training to be an anchor? There aren't many jobs for anchors. What about street reporting?" "I don't think I would like that very much," the young lass said. The conversation continued, but I began to seethe. The fraud that journalism professors are perpetrating on impressionable young people is almost too much to bear. She will be lucky to find a one-man-band street reporting job in Fort Wayne, IN and get paid the miserly sum that drove me out of the business decades ago. Moreover, what kind of academic learning is it to sit and look at a camera with a pleasant expression on one's face? What she should be doing is studying history, political science, economics and physics, so she can be a good reporter at some point in her career. But no, she's studying anchoring.

I am an honors journalism graduate, so I feel I am qualified to write that most journalism and PR curricula fall woefully short of the education that a reporter and PR practitioner needs. Learning how to write leads and press releases is not enough to report accurately the complex world in which we live. I am not alone in writing this. Many in journalism have said the same thing -- and in PR too. The best journalists and PR people bring well-developed and rigorous minds to their work. They are curious. They dig. They are not satisfied until they understand.

In the old days, one trained under an editor who made you or broke you. We need that kind of OJT back in journalism and PR. We should insist that college students come prepared in solid disciplines and then train them in the techniques of each business. This could be done easily with a fifth year cram course rather than four years of learning how to write and do events or anchoring.

I feel sorry for the parents of the young lass. They are forking over tens of thousands of dollars to a university for little or nothing. They might as well bet on horses or the lottery for all the return they and their daughter are getting.

Yes, I taught in a university communications department, and yes, my feelings were the same there as well, which is why I wasn't well liked by the revenue-driven professors. They were more concerned with keeping the number of students up in order to collect tuition than they were with a good education of those entrusted to them. It sickened me and finally, I quit. (They were happy I did.) What has happened to education?

I wish the young woman well in her pursuit of anchoring. I am sorry she was led to believe that she has to attend a four-year college to learn how to do it.

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