Some critics would have you believe there’s very little point in getting a college degree in journalism. Syracuse University’s Hub Brown responds in the latest issue of Static, a newsletter for broadcast journalism educators, that the training journalism schools provide in ethics and standards is more necessary than ever. I don’t know a news director in an electronic journalism entity anywhere who would consider hiring someone who does not know how to write for the ear and not the eye, or does not know what pictures to shoot at the scene of something newsworthy or why to shoot them, or cannot reliably produce news content for audiences on deadline.These are not skills one just absorbs. I’m more than willing to admit that not every J-school does a great job of preparing its students. There are people who will hire you for a journalism job without your having a journalism degree. Not only is there no real training on the job — newsroom staffs have been cut to the bone, so there are too few people to allow anyone to take the time to teach a neophyte.
More than three decades ago, when I left the newsroom of a major daily for a full-time teaching gig, one of my colleagues advised me that journalism could not be taught in a classroom. Good J-Schools, ones that teach students professional skills, hold them to professional standards, expect them to act ethically and to actually do journalism on a deadline, and convince them of the absolutely vital role journalism plays in a democracy, graduate students that a lot of newsrooms very much want to hire–if they had openings. To be truthful, there perhaps has never been a time where it’s more important to have a formal journalism background than right now.
When I entered the business in the mid-80’s, one could get away with not having a J-School degree because you were surrounded by a team of seasoned pros to learn from. I have been eternally blessed to have worked with young journalists who’ve emerged from solid programs such as Missouri, Syracuse.
I graduated from the Journalism program at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa back in 1977. When the ABC circulation and Amps readership figures come out, Soccer Laduma is often the star of the show – gaining ground or holding steady – but media watchers tend to dismiss it because it’s a sports title.
As a measure of engagement, the website gets more than 400 000 comments a month.When it comes to social media, Soccer Laduma has more than 232 000 Twitter followers and 905 000 Facebook likes. It is a very profitable operation but covering a popular sport is not necessarily a blueprint for success. The key is to show respect for the reader, says Du Toit, and the players get this too as they’d rather talk to the fans than to a celebrity sports writer trying to demonstrate his knowledge of the game.


The club has one main aim: to help soccer supporters create a better soccer environment from a spectator’s point of view. An interesting development is that members started putting their views forward on sponsors (for example, particular problems they might have with banking) so Soccer Laduma responded by doing on-the-ground and online surveys.
Another unexpected development are members requesting specific information, for example, about health issue such as diabetes and also asking for their clubs to become depots for e-commerce deliveriesand couriers (because companies find it difficult to locate addresses in SA’s townships). At a time when many print titles are striving for newsroom convergence, Soccer Laduma is already operating as a determined digital-first operation. Take, for example, the fact that the print title has three reporters (anda team that rework scopy) while the website has more than 40 staff members, including four people dedicated to analysing content performance using tools such as Chartbeat. Thirty percent of users come to the site via social media so there is also a team managing social networks.
Du Toit says he believes more advertising revenue will flow to digital in the future but advertisers need a better understanding of the medium, whichhe believes is the job of digital publishers – and to show that it’s not just about page impressions but also engagement. Love him or hate him—and we suspect most likely go for the latter—but Milo Yiannopoulos certainly spends a lot of time on Twitter. Writing in The Nation, Michael Tracy asserts that a journalism degree is unnecessary because you can get a job in the news business without one.
While it’s possible to learn skills on the job instead of in J-school , most newsrooms are looking for new hires that can hit the ground running. J-schools that do their jobs right give students a solid grounding in critical thinking and ethical decision making. As Hub Brown points out, students who graduate from accredited journalism schools are required to take a broad range of courses outside their major. In a good j-school, we transmit values and ethics, provide training experiences with a bit of a safety net, and give students opportunities to report and produce stories that they wouldn’t get a chance to do in their first year on the job in most newsrooms. Four years later, after working with some of my students as interns, he began teaching part-time.
South African soccer publications have fallen by the wayside in the past decade such as Times Media’s SoccerLife, which was closed in 2011. This is a big cost, Du Toit says, but it’s worth it because it’s an important marketing arm.


Of course, as a journalism professor Brown has a vested interest in the success of J-schools.
Journalists go to Poynter, API, IRE and ONA many on their own dime and on vacation time to learn or be updated on the skill sets needed to do this ever-evolving job. Grateful because they chose to give back to the profession by providing an education and mentoring to the next generation. We created the biggest letters section I think I’ve ever seen – and it’s still one of the biggest. He says he has been blown away by the remarkable rise this year of the Soccer Laduma Supporters Club.
And I can’t tell you the last time I heard a young journalist mention training as something his or her employer provides.
Young journalists need to know how to dig for the truth, not just how to write a coherent sentence, as important as that is.
A lot of students have difficulties figuring out how to prepare themselves for real-world jobs — and that includes a lot of students who do finish a four-year degree! The requirement to gain a liberal arts education in addition to journalism has made it possible to pursue my career ever since graduation. The real importance is that it allows a person to confirm that a Twitter handle is officially theirs, as opposed to any other spoof accounts (or hundreds of spoof accounts) that others have made.
The Iowa State campus provided experience in living and working in a community I’ve leaned on ever since.
Yes, they’ll get better at it with practice, but in many newsrooms they may have to make decisions quickly and without much supervision. They need to leave school with a well-calibrated compass to avoid serious ethical missteps.
Yes, you can work in the field without a BA or BS in Journalism, but I certainly hit the ground running upon graduation and moved on with my life.



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