By Kunkel, Thomas
American Journalism Review , Vol. 25, No. 1
One could argue that the faster we produce journalism, the mare time we should be thinking about journalism, but of course the reality is just the reverse. Our breakneck, 24-7 media environment simply allows no time to contemplate what we do, or why it matters, or how to do it better. There's only time to keep shoveling--which has grave repercussions, which we should be thinking about, but there's no time....
Journalism educators face something of the same problem. Juggling the demands of teaching, researching, writing, managing--and for some of us, raising money-we too seldom make the time to reflect on our core mission: how best to make new journalists.
That's why I was happy to oblige when Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists, approached me last year to write about the challenges facing journalism education. It forced me to exhale a moment, close the door and actually compose some thoughts about my job.
The piece appeared in early July. Then weeks later, in what I can assure you was an entirely unrelated development, the new president of Columbia University caused everyone in our discipline to start thinking about journalism education. He did so by raising questions about the fundamental mission of his own storied J-school.
This was controversial stuff, given Columbia's iconic status and President Lee Bollinger's rekindling of the evergreen argument over the appropriate role of a professional school at a research university. The controversy has scarcely abated as a blue-ribbon committee has picked up Bollinger's charge to scrutinize and perhaps reimagine the Columbia program.
Now and again I'm asked by reporters to comment on the Columbia matter. I'm no more comfortable doing that than a counterpart would be talking about the Maryland program. Certainly I have tried to avoid specifics, and I will do so here. But under the circumstances a few general observations about journalism education might be in order.
First, I think it's important to remember that there's no monolithic entity called journalism education, any more than there's a monolithic 'African American community" or a single type of teenage girl. There's a broad spectrum of programs devoted to journalism and mass communication, as there should be, and they all have a demonstrated validity.
Consider a (by no means inclusive) list of some top journalism programs--say Columbia, Missouri, Cal-Berkeley, Northwestern, Maryland, Indiana, Syracuse and North Carolina. …