Little Common Ground for Magazine Editors and Professors Surveyed on Journalism Curriculum

Article excerpt

This study was designed to fill a gap in the literature by analyzing the attitudes of magazine editors and educators toward various skills that job applicants should exhibit. The survey results detail significant differences between the editors and educators on eighteen of twenty-three skills. Open-ended questions also indicated that editors appeared to value nonskills such as cheerfulness, while overlooking a favorite of educators-clips.

For decades the debate has continued: are journalism educators and collegiate journalism programs providing the appropriate foundation to prepare students for careers in journalism, and are journalism educators and journalism professionals in agreement about what that appropriate foundation is? Current literature shows that there are, indeed, discrepancies between how journalism educators and journalism professionals think about the purpose of a college degree in journalism and about the skills or knowledge students of collegiate journalism programs should have upon graduation.1

Past research has focused on analyzing the attitude gap between educators and professional journalists of several branches of journalism, including newspaper journalism, advertising, and broadcast news. This study was designed to fill a gap in the literature by analyzing a different branch of journalism-one that has not been studied in the past-magazine journalism. While there are distinct similarities between newspaper and magazine journalism, the two fields are different in several ways, including hiring practices, organizational structure, and writing styles and purposes. Therefore, while it is possible that similar discrepancies may exist between journalism educators and newspaper editors, and journalism educators and magazine editors, this research was undertaken to determine exactly what those differences may be. In other words, what qualities and mastered skill levels are magazine editors looking for in new hires, and are these qualities and mastered skill levels in line with what magazine journalism educators believe graduates should have?

Literature Review

In a study looking at the gap between journalism educators and professional newspaper and broadcast journalists, Dickson and Brandon found, among other things, that there were significant differences between the professionals and the educators in two categories: what media-related courses are important for undergraduates seeking jobs in journalism and what competencies undergraduates should have upon graduation.2 For the first category, the authors found that both groups of educators rated conceptual courses, such as media history, communication theory, and mass media and society, and professionally oriented mass media courses, such as media law, media ethics, and media management, higher than the professional journalists did. The newspaper educators also rated journalism skills courses, such as reporting, use of technology, and design, higher than the professional journalists did. Language arts skills courses, such as grammar, spelling, and punctuation, were rated the most highly by the two groups of professionals and the broadcast educators. Only the newspaper journalism educators rated another category, journalism skills courses, as being the most important courses for undergraduates to take.

In general, the results of this study showed that although there were significant differences between the groups of educators and professionals, the groups were in overall agreement concerning the relative importance of the types of media-related courses necessary for undergraduates seeking jobs in either newspaper or broadcast journalism.

In terms of competencies, the professionals were more likely than educators to rank practical job skills, including reporting, writing, and the use of technology, as most important, whereas newspaper editors were more likely than the broadcasters or educators to favor community-oriented reporting skills. …