Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Theoretical Journalism

It seems someone has been talking about my blog post, J school blues. Check it out here.

This journalist questions how important theoretical studies in journalism are necessary. Don't get me wrong - I don't mind theory and discussion, but there are specific topics that should be discussed and some others that don't need to be mentionned.

For example, I had the chance to take Conflict Reporting class - a wonderful class where we discussed Aboriginals in Canada and how they are portrayed in the media. Not only did I learn about Aboriginals (which sadly, most Canadians don't know about), but I was challenged to rethink the way we portray people in the news, particularly minorities.

It is how and if they discuss minorities. This is the type of theory that is useful.

Discuss the role of advertising in the media. I find it hard when advertising can take over some of the editorial aspect of smaller newspapers (e.g.Community newspapers that realy solely on advertising to survive). Can journalism survive without advertising? Should advertising dictate editorial content?

How do you become a fair and balanced reporter? What if you are biased on one of the subjects you are writing about?

How do you go around people refusing to give you information? What if you have sources that always want to be "off-the-record" (which I have tried to deal with more or less sucessfully)? How do you get around PR talk and political spiels? Politicians are great at putting a spin on what they say - how do you get them to tell it as it is?

How about reading some of the great journalists and discuss what they are writing about, how they do it and why they are so famous?

I am not criticzing theory and discussion - there is a wealth of subjects to discuss, so much that needs to be understood. But the Turning points class (I know, I'm really knocking this one down) is not teaching any valuable lesson that I will be able to use.

On the blog, the journalist says "we're going to need answers to that question as we figure out how to adapt journalism to the Internet using some model other than copying the existing print media. Is the primary purpose of your journalism..." YES! That is it! We are at the junction of an important turning point in journalism with Internet...Why are we not discussing how to use this new technology? Why aren't we trying to shape how this will all play out? After all, our generation of journalists will have to deal with it.


Blogger Fine Young Journalist said...

I had a great time in journalism school. It was the best hundred years of my life. [Tiddy-boom!]

Since I didn't go to Concordia, help me out -- if you're not learning those things you listed, what ARE they teaching you? What was the last Turning Points class about?

9:45 PM  
Blogger Melanie Holubowski said...

Ok, here goes to answer your question Fine young Journalist.
year 1: writing ad reporthing (we learn the basic tools on how to write an article and copy editing, finding a good story)
intro to TV and radio class (basic technology course, with some insights on writing for broadcast)

Year 2: reporting methods (essentially, the same as writing and reporting from Year 1) - but we are learning about business and crime reporting. We have already spent half of the semester on business writing, and to tell you frankly, unless we get a crash course on economics and accounting, there is no way in hell I can do a proper job writing for the business section.
It is a complex topic, but we have barely skimmed the surface (e.g.: we wrote a Annual report story on a chosen business - but most people had no idea what the numbers are amortization funds...If you are claiming to teach business reporting, teach it in depth, so I can go out and report for the business section.

Turning points....ah the mother of all classes. Last class, we talked about War and journalism. Worthy topic, but it was all over the place. We discussed WWI and WWII, but made no links to how war is reported on. i thought we would make some sort of comparison, but the teacher focused on the tone of voice of the announcer and basically what made for a good annoucer BACK THEN.
As I said, it is not the theory that bothers me so much, it is the fact that we are not advancing forward with any of this analysis. Where are the links to today's journalism? How about Kosovo? How abou Iraq / Afghanistan?
The two classes before that were dedicated to finding a definition of what a Turning Point is (or rather discussing the prof's idea of what a turning point is).
Radio and TV class: now talk about learning. Producing twice a week a radio newscast is the best hands-on approach I've seen. We learn by making mistakes, but we learn every aspect of the newsroom. TV is the same (without actually producing a show) - with us learning how to interview for TV, shoot our film, edit, doing voice overs.

J school is not all bad...There just seems to be a let down in the second year.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Fine Young Journalist said...

Hmmm. I was hoping you'd say there was some stuff about the philosophy of journalism, shading into mass communication -- a course, or at least part of a course, on what journalism is supposed to be FOR.

As I wrote on my blog, I don't think there's any one right answer, but a lot of interesting people have had a lot of interesting ideas on the subject, and as boring as it is when you'd rather be out doing interviews or locked in a room cutting tape just so, I think it's important to have some kind of moral anchor when you're doing that.

Are you getting anything like that?

11:34 PM  

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