The cardinal rule in journalism is “Show, don’t tell.” And journalism students are getting way too much telling.
John J. Miller, founder of The College Fix and director of Hillsdale College’s Dow Journalism Program, takes on his own field in a post for The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal (until recently known as the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy).
His jumping-off point is an acknowledgment by New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet, in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, that New York and D.C. media “don’t get religion.”
Why would that be? Their college curriculum has too much journalism in it, and not enough liberal arts:
This is a minority view. Too many colleges and universities have replaced the shared experience of a core curriculum in the liberal arts with job training and specialization. This includes journalism programs, which have proliferated to nearly 500 in total, including more than 220 master’s programs and more than 50 doctoral programs, according to a survey by the University of Georgia.
What do these students learn? Next to nothing, apparently, about faith—one of the most fundamental forces in human life.
Mark Twain—who was better known in his own time as a journalist than as a novelist—supposedly once quipped: “I have never let schooling interfere with my education.” We might update his remark for the present: Never let journalism school interfere with your education in journalism.
If educators widely agree that good pedagogy these days should involve more student participation and less droning, that should apply especially to journalism:
Students don’t figure out how to tell good and accurate stories from prattling professors. We can give pointers, show examples of outstanding work, and answer questions. Ultimately, however, our charges must struggle with the basics of reporting, composition, and editing.
Miller’s one-pager for improving journalism education: Put the campus newspaper or radio station at its center and make plenty of room for “economics, history, and the sciences—all of them offering excellent preparation for careers in the media.”
More than anything else, students need
old-fashioned cultural literacy, as transmitted by the liberal arts: Read great books and authors, starting with the Bible itself and working through everyone from Augustine to Maimonides to C.S. Lewis.
He has other specific items for your student’s reading list, if you’re into that.