Escalation and journalism education

David Carr of The New York Times made headlines last week when he wrote that most journalism schools are “escalators to nowhere.” It’s a catchy metaphor that bounced around on Facebook and Twitter for several days.

But overlooked in that chatter is another sentence in Carr’s article: “Even in a shrinking industry, journalism schools may become more important — becoming sources of actual journalism and not just pedagogy.”

Many journalism schools already are doing that, of course, and have been for many years. The University of Missouri publishes the Missourian in print and online. The University of South Carolina has The Carolina Reporter.

Here at UNC-Chapel Hill, students in two courses, Community Journalism and Advanced Editing, work on the Durham VOICE and Carrboro Commons websites. The Reese News Lab is reporting on science and technology and North Carolina politics while exploring the journalistic possibilities of tablets and smartphones.

And yes, journalism students are still getting hired, even in this difficult period for our profession. At UNC, more than 80 percent of the class of 2012 got jobs after graduation.

Pedagogy and “actual journalism” go hand in hand. When they work well together, journalism education still matters, and it will for as long as people want news and information.

UPDATE: In December 2013, Boston University announced that Carr will teach a journalism course there while continuing to work for The New York Times. Welcome to academia, David!

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