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The Campus Lag?

(AP / CBS)
I got to college in the fall of 1992, in the heady days of Ross Perot pie charts. I graduated in December of 1995. And the only time I typed three "w"s in a row was when I was misspelling a word on my word processor. (Wow. "Word processor." Pretty sure I just lost all the under-30 readers right there.)

When I got out into the workforce, however, the topic all the DC media types were talking about was the Internet. I remember sitting in the White House press room – as a cub reporter for a small news service -- asking a cameraman what his MSNBC hat was all about.

What I'm trying to say is … my undergrad journalism program was a little behind.

So it wasn't all that surprising to see the current Inside Higher Ed point out that this is still the case. In the most recent issue, it reports:

[J]ournalism education is lagging behind industry in embracing the new media technologies that students will need to be competitive in the work place, according to a paper presented Friday…

When discussing barriers to new media education, panelists and audience members cited costs, in addition to resistance from some faculty who lack multimedia skills themselves or otherwise don't see the need to instruct undergraduates in the emerging platforms.

Hmm. So if I'm reading Inside Higher Ed right, then there's a bit of a time difference between Actual Journalism and Journalism Education – sort of like if the real world was on the east coast and j-schools were on the west coast, and the west coast is three years behind.

Could this be so? According to a University of Maryland study that's so well-timed that it seems planted, unfortunately …it sure looks that way.

The people who run the nation's journalism and mass communication schools are overwhelmingly white, and two-thirds of them are male…
Of responding deans, directors and department heads:
  • 90 percent are white.
  • 64 percent are male.
  • Their average age is 55.
  • 73.5 percent hold a doctoral degree.
  • 48 percent said journalism is their area of experience or expertise (the rest cited advertising, public relations, media studies and other areas of mass communication).
  • 40 percent said they had at least a decade of professional experience in their field prior to becoming an academic head, and another 22 percent said they had between five and 10 years of working experience.
  • Between business models and workforce issues and perception problems, journalism has more than ever on its to-do list.

    But when the students in school – the journalists of a year from now – aren't being taught the skills they need in order to enter a newsroom and start working, is there any wonder that the hiring of new graduates has stalled in recent years?

    Times are tight in MediaLand these days – and getting tighter every day. But unless journalism education is invigorated with the ideas and technologies of today, then news industry's next generation will continue to lag behind.

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