Thursday, October 06, 2005

J school blues

Watch out all first year students. When second year at J school rolls around, you will be hit with the J school blues. My first year as a journalism student was exciting and a constant rush of novelty. This year, I just feel in a lull, things are not picking up as I wished they could be. I began to think, is J school really necessary?

I feel like I could be out there writing more stories, discovering the world, but instead, I am stuck in class, covering stories that will most likely never be printed or aired. I am being taught useless philosophical theories about journalism when I clearly know people won't read a philosophical essay, but they will read the newspaper.

My television and advanced radio classes are the most hands-on classes I've taken so far, and I am grateful we have such an opportunity to fine tune our skills before the entire world can see and criticize our work.

But then, there are certain classes I am taking and some that I have taken that are simply a waste of my time and energy.

Out of my boredom and wish to find out what other j school students think of J schools, I stumbled upon a blog ( This was started by a student from University of Queensland as an angry response to the lack of experience given to J school students.

Their main objection to the J school is that they do not prepare students for the real world.
No kidding.
I have learned the most valuable lessons when actually covering a story for the school paper or the community paper. I have made mistakes, written bland stories, but I've learned that I need to be quick witted and always thinking 10 steps ahead of everyone else, something I will not learn in a theoretical class.

I don't know if I should write this, but I will just outline what I (and most other students) in ConU's Turning Points class are thinking. No offence to the teacher, but the class is absolutely useless. The entire semester is devoted to discussing turning points in the broadcast industry. We are studying how technology or certain events affect media.

Yes, it is a worthwhile topic to discuss, but an entire semester of this is not necessary. We've already taken History of Journalism that discussed similar topics, so why rehash the same issues? This class is a requirement to the degree, but I’d rather be taking a photojournalism class or online writing that this class.

Second point of contention with J schools: students are not given enough work (oh, boy, I can see student's reaction to this!). Writing an assignment (usually around 500 words) every second or third week is not very realistic of the time-constraints real journalists face. Give us one assignment per week. They need to be newsworthy stories (would someone read it?) and timely (not just rewrite about an old issue).

I wouldn't mind a little extra push - j students need to understand that news changes every MINUTE and that we need to be constantly on top of everything that surrounds us. We are not journalists only during class time, we should be constantly working, thinking, questioning things, observing. J schools do not stress that enough.

This is just the start of my thoughts on the J School – I will come back to this in the near future. Hopefully we can have a discussion with other students and current working journalists as to how this program should be improved. If we don’t question, there is no change.


Blogger Sikander said...

Last year (my first), it seemed like Concordia was really sticking to its motto - Real Education for the Real World.

And it did help. When I showed up for an internship at a major daily this past summer, I had already written stories on various issues (albeit on a weekly basis) based on interviews, events, and streeters. Of course, I learned more over the summer than I did in both previous semesters combined, but the class work gave me the basics I needed to get going in the newsroom.

As Melanie stated, this year is proving to be somewhat different and it mostly has to do with the course she mentioned.

I personally hate abstract concepts. I can't stand theory. I'm more of a hands-on guy.

I'm all for knowing "our" history. I think it's important to know who accomplished what in the past and how.

But this theory stuff about what constitutes a turning point, etc., was really getting to me.

However, over the last couple of weeks, it's starting to make a little sense. By pondering over what makes a turning point, I've started to think about how we could possibly create a turning point in broadcast/journalism history.

If anything, I think it's forcing us to think outside the proverbial box by dissecting what others did in the past. It's also giving a greater context to us for what we'll be soon doing.

Yes, I know it sounds like a load of BS, but I guess that's also part of becoming a good journalist.

If there's anything journalism needs right now, it's fresh thinking - the good kind, the kind that can give our trade the honour and integrity it seems that it so badly needs.

I have a hunch that it's courses like these, no matter how painfully boring they may seem, that can help in achieving that goal.

9:50 PM  
Blogger Jeremy Brendan said...

[Note of Disclosure: I got kicked out of J-School, therefore I am an insurgent]

I think that the Journalism program at Concordia should be completely revamped.

Put every journalism student to work from Day 1. Don't force people to hand in assignments that will get graded and then land in a wastepaper basket.

Publish everything good. Weaker students can copy-edit or learn the tools of the editing trade, or even type-setting... whatever, just don't put good honest labour to waste.

Lastly, fuck theory and teach us how to improve our writing. If we don't understand how to write a lede in a story, teach us what the greats us brilliance, not pages from an American text-book.

I got kicked out because I missed too much class, drank a sailor-load of beer, and was homeless. My journalistic exploits will continue unabated. Regardless, I believe that Concordia could have a great J-School if they would only listen to this failed, published drop-out.

Love & Hugs,
Jeremy Brendan
AKA Philip Shearing

1:46 AM  
Blogger Melanie Holubowski said...

It's good to hear from you Phil...I think the j students at ConU miss you and your jokes! Too bad they didn't let you stick around, I thought you had some good ideas. Doesnt' mean you can't make it without ConU.
I agree that not al students want to be a reporter for the National. Some want to do sports, some entertainment, some just want to do PR work. That's cool. So, maybe what we need is a basic English classes for everyone -doens't hurt to brush up - and make sure our work is worth it.
Too many times I've written "articles" for class and they have ended up in a file somewhere in my room - I wouldn't use them in my portfolio because I didn't really apply myself to them. I'd rather write an article about REAL events and have it published. Much more rewarding than an A.

So Phil, maybe the J school will one day change because of you. Keep us posted on what you think

7:05 PM  
Anonymous Remi said...

Yeah, it is definately different this year. I really liked how our classes worked last year. We actually went out and did what we will be doing later, actually going to find stories and report on them.

This year we do not need to leave our home to do the assignments, which are not really helping us in our jobs. Although for me it is better to be able to stay at home to do the work, I would still like to go out sometimes and if I can't go to a particular story, i'll find something else that I can go that gives me the same experience.

Yes, theory is important, however it should be mixed with actual reporting work. As Sikander said although you will learn more by doing the job, it really helps to have some experience under your belt, even if it is classroom experience.

Hopefully students will write for some school or community papers to get that experience that they should be getting in class.

7:42 PM  
Anonymous Wendy said...

*crawls out of the woodwork and waves*
hey sandra, melanie, sikander, darcy... wendy here, fellow disgruntled 2nd year "i'm-not-an-alcoholic-i'm-a-journalist" student. i wanna jump on the bandwagon. (podwagon?) ;)

and i agree with everyone's statements. sikander, we've spoken before about what a load of crap JOUR 332 is. although i understand what he's trying to get us to do, i don't necessarily like the way he's approaching the subject matter. *sigh* does anyone else feel like we're the ones teaching HIM how to teach that class?

i remember Leo once told me last year that you learn all you need to know after a year and a half of classes. well, my friends, we're nearing that saturation point and we're all a little exasperated by now. not to mention itching to begin working in a REAL newsroom.

advanced radio with jim is the closest to a GENUINELY useful class i've had so far.

7:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ind monthly has dropped its standards. Last year a UQ J student submitted an article about colleges and info exchange programs which was completely false - she interviewed me and a few other UQ college students and completely twisted our words and threw stuff in. I did the interview at the request of a good uni mate and it made the colleges look awful for no reason. she didn't have any reference to who she spoke to or anything and i got raked over the coals. how is it training good journalism? @ UQ U can if you make it up

3:37 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home