Journalism schools need to teach business courses and lessons in creating start-ups, some j-school students and professors say. "We need specialized training that will enable us to adapt to a changing media environment," a student wrote recently.
A growing debate over how journalism schools should get a makeover was renewed recently in Canada thanks to an article by Arik Ligeti, a third-year student at Carleton University. He recently wrote in J-Source.ca "... if there are fewer opportunities and increased competition, then I believe it becomes, at least in part, the job of the educational institution to help prepare its students to adapt to an industry that increasingly demands its workers to sell themselves."
He complains not enough Canadian j-schools are including entrepreneurial programs into the mix, especially as more newspapers acquire up start-ups and add those staffers into the newsroom. Ligeti adds, "Schools need to give us the skill-set that will allow us to become entrepreneurs – whether that means launching our own ventures, or simply being able to make a living as a freelancer."
In a recent issue of Media magazine [PDF], Kelly Toughill echoes Ligeti, saying universities need to adapt or die.
But there used to be some backlash over this idea: "Some universities have added business development skills to the core baskets of journalism education. Just two years ago this concept was treated as a form of heresy. Those who advocated teaching journalists how to start and run businesses were denounced at academic conferences in Canada and the United States."
If there is any model for j-schools to look at for inspiration, it's the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism. For the past six years, director Jeff Jarvis has led students to learn about entrepreneurial skills and develop for-profit journalism start-ups to pitch to a "jury" of venture capitalists, technologists and publishers.
Jarvis says in an interview they want students to think about creating platforms or content businesses, and the school aims to try to get the students to succeed with their ventures. CUNY wants students to think about building sustainable journalism business models. "Profit is not a dirty word in our school," remarks Jarvis.
Ligeti ends his column with a plea: "We need specialized training that will enable us to adapt to a changing media environment which seems to include less permanent jobs and more online ventures."
Jarvis couldn't agree more. "We need more schools to teach students the business of journalism."
What do you think? How should j-schools adapt to a quickly changing media environment?