On the first day of each semester, I ask my students to stand up and tell the class why they want to be a journalist. The answer I hear 90 percent of the time is, “I love to tell stories.”
Although predictable, I consider this is a verbal contract of their commitment to a good narrative—to sharing engaging information—whether they hope to work in a news outlet, an advertising agency, or somewhere else entirely.
This isn’t a lonely and personal sentiment. According to Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute, as brands clamor for high-quality content, “the largest non-media companies on the planet will continue to fleece successful media companies of their journalists, editors and broadcasters.”
Journalism students often have natural storytelling skills.
If the non-media world is in fact pulling journalism students away from jobs as traditional journalists, where does this leave traditional journalism education, where one’s taught not even to accept a glass of water from a source, much less a job offer? How do we maintain the vital principles of journalism, while continuing to prepare students for this potential future?
In a recent article on PBS, the director of J-Lab Jan Schaffer argues the merits of journalism school as a “Gateway Degree.”
“It’s time to think about trumpeting a journalism degree as the ultimate Gateway Degree, one that can get you a job just about anywhere, except perhaps the International Space Station,” she writes. With skills in storytelling and digital media, Schaffer says journalism school grads are also attractive to businesses “seeking to build out journalism portfolios” (i.e. content marketing), as well as non-profits, information startups and the political arena.
But, perhaps Schaffer’s most poignant point is her urgent message for journalism schools to start showcasing alum who’ve succeeded in a new world of media, not only those succeeding in traditional news organizations.
Does this muddy the purist nature of journalism, to improve the world by informing, educating or entertaining? Maybe. But imagine a world where instead of being bombarded by anywhere between 3,000 and 20,000 marketing messages every day, we instead get to experience well-crafted stories?
In my opinion, I’d say that’s an improvement.