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Why I value my journalism degree

by Danielle Gasher March 7, 2017 1 comment

My response to the large amount of hate on my program of study

I have come to the realization that having to defend journalism on a daily basis comes with the territory of studying journalism.

“Good luck getting a job” and “What do you plan on doing with that?” are things I hear regularly. I can handle that. But perhaps the comment I get the most, and the comment that irks me the most, is “You’re studying journalism? That’s kind of a useless degree.” Or even, “Just be a journalist, you don’t need a degree for that.”

Society seems increasingly distrustful of “the media.” I put “the media” in quotation marks because the term, although commonly used, doesn’t really mean anything. As senior editor for The Atlantic James Hamblin wrote last month, “the term has been weaponized.”

The Atlantic senior editor Derek Thompson writes, “‘the media,’ like ‘technology,’ is not a single, tangible object but rather an information galaxy, a vast and complex star system composed of diverse and opposing organizations, which are themselves composed of a motley group of people, each of whom are neither all good nor all bad, but mostly flawed media merchants with individual strengths, weaknesses, biases and blindspots.”

To summarize briefly, “the media” is too much of an all-encompassing term that muddles the individuality of journalists and organizations.

I believe this homogenizing of individual journalists and news organizations is toxic for the understanding of a complex industry and profession. Being a journalist is no less important than it was two decades ago—it is just easier to mimic today.

A distrust in news organizations is understandable. With the ever-increasing importance of social media and speed in people’s lives, clickbait and fake news weasel their way to the top of our newsfeeds.

But as renowned journalist Christiane Amanpour said at the 2016 meeting for the Committee to Protect Journalists, “we must fight for the truth in a post-truth world.” I am grateful for my journalism degree because I believe a good, balanced training, including lessons on ethics, law, image, sound, writing and history, is an important part of succeeding in the fight for “truth in a post-truth world.” I believe journalism schools are the light of hope for the next generation of aspiring journalists, who are being increasingly exposed to lazy publishing and public relations painted as journalism.

Concordia has one of the best journalism schools in the country. The program is known for training honest and professional journalists who have moved on to work for reputable organizations like the Montreal Gazette, the Globe and Mail, CBC, CTV and the New York Times.

The hands-on training I have been receiving since the beginning of my studies blows me away. Our teachers have us going out, conducting interviews, gathering sound and images—the same way producers or editors at CBC expect their journalists to gather a story. Professors have been throwing us into scrums, crowds, conferences, courtrooms, protests, and expect excellence from us in return.

Journalism school has consistently ranked at the top of “Most Useless Major” lists on blogs and websites like Business Insider and the Huffington Post. Its value has also been questioned in articles from The Guardian, Complex magazine and Forbes. While the hate or disdain for journalism school has been discussed over the years, there is simultaneously a common desire for more truthful, honest journalism.

CBC’s The Sunday Edition host Michael Enright once said, “citizen journalism is like citizen dentists… I’d rather not.”  So for those who complain or criticize this “useless degree,” but also complain about “sloppy journalism,” it may be time to think about the importance of proper journalistic training for the next generation of storytellers and for the future of news.

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  • Barbara Madimenos

    I have never gotten a negative response in reference to my journalism degree (except for my traditional Greek grandparents who prayed I would become a doctor or lawyer). In fact, many have responded positively, congratulating me in pursuing the art of writing. Of course, many would ask if I would get a second job, considering the poor pay and competitive field journalism is associated with, but I believe that if one loves their job and perseveres at it, they will only breed success. I am sorry to hear that you haven’t had positive responses, but keep your head up high, and thank you for standing up to those that doubt this trade.

    Best,
    Barbara Madimenos