Clearing up some misconceptions about journalism

Much of what you hear, see and read about journalism isn’t true. (That is ironic, isn’t it?) The erroneous information is often based on assumptions or leaps of logic. Or it’s just conjecture and opinion. Here are two examples I’ve run across in the past week:

MISCONCEPTION: Managing editors and executive editors at newspapers control the content of editorial pages. This idea comes at the end of this point-by-point analysis of a recent Q&A with John Drescher, the new executive editor at The News & Observer. The blogger wonders whether Drescher was asked about the editorial pages and whether he might change the direction of that “weak link” at the paper.

REALITY: Top newsroom editors at the N&O (and most papers like it) have no role in the editorial pages. News and editorial typically don’t mix, with interaction between staffers in those departments limited to pleasantries in the snack bar. Thus, asking the executive editor about the editorial page would be as useful as asking a university’s chemistry professor about the football team’s game plan. (Related post here.)

MISCONCEPTION: College students who major in journalism are deprived of a “real” education in the liberal arts and are wasting their time. This view exists among working journalists (such as this one) and others outside the field, including this poet.

REALITY: Majoring in journalism doesn’t mean a student takes only journalism courses. No more than a third of the courses that a journalism undergraduate takes will be in journalism. The idea is to not only teach undergraduate students the skills and concepts directly relevant to the field, but also to help them be well-rounded people versed in history, literature, mathematics (gasp!) and other areas. A journalism degree is not required to be a journalist, and it shouldn’t be. But it’s a good way to get there.


One Comment

  1. Well, as I read Taibbi, he’s saying not to major in liberal arts but to get educated in some more specific subject (he cites medicine, but I suppose you could argue public administration or a branch of the sciences — just not the traditional liberal arts).

    Giovanni is just the opposite, pushing a liberal arts agenda.

    The real problem is that everyone thinks they can “do” journalism — why, just pick up a pencil or a microphone and just start writing or talking. That’s why we have so much crap out there. Journalism — good journalism that uncovers hard-to-find information — is hard work. No, you don’t need a journalism degree to do it, but it helps, just like you don’t need an English degree to write poetry.

    Then again, maybe that’s why there are so many lousy novels and poetry, too. Maybe we should do away with English while we’re at it. I haven’t seen too much benefit to society from it. (We’ll keep a small “classics and modern lit” program just to be honest about what “English” really is at most schools.)

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