Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Would this read better if Medill were accredited?


     Good for Medill.
     I admit, when I first heard that my alma mater, Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism (we'll get to its official name later) had let its academic accreditation lapse, my immediate instinct — call it "Columnist's Reflex" — was to draw back my foot and deliver a kick.
     What is college but reputation? And Medill Dean Bradley Hamm's assessment of the review process — "It's relatively superficial, extremely time consuming and doesn't lead us to a goal of significant improvement. It's sort of a low bar." — is true for college in general. And yet they still encourage young people to attend.
     Then I reconsidered. Why does a journalism school — excuse me, a journalism, integrated marketing, storytelling and whatever else they fancy themselves this week school — need official sanction? A merit badge, a Good Housekeeping seal, a kiss on the forehead from some pooh bah? Look around. The number of newsroom jobs is half what it was 20 years ago. Circulation and ad revenues hemorrhage. People get their news from three bullet points on their smartphones. While the president of the United States daily damns the entire profession to his millions of reality-challenged followers who lap it up, being the sort of people who believe the "Fast and Furious" films are documentaries.
     Do you really need to go to an accredited journalism school to slave for some obscure website? I don't think so. Fog a mirror, agree to grind out steaming piles of content for whatever Dickensian online workhouse they're running and you're in. Frankly, the higher quality school you went to, the more galling the penury that awaits. Five years after graduating from Medill, I was unemployed for the third time, telling myself that my patchwork of humiliating low-level jobs was a freelance career....

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  1. so many cling to a romantic notion of becoming a writer, correspondent or reporter, without realizing it takes training , and you need to learn to do this work . you have actually done this . i envy you. do you honestly believe you'd have done as well without a prestigious degree?

    1. Yes. Roger Ebert went to U of I and he turned out alright.

  2. To some employees or graduate schools, the college you went to does make a difference.

  3. Journalisms seems an increasingly unlikely road to riches, but this little lyric by G.K. Chesterton suggests that people will do it anyway.

    "And I dream of the days when work was scrappy,
    And rare in our pockets was the mark of the Mint.
    When we were angry, and poor and happy,
    And proud of seeing our names in print."

    Alternatively Dr. Johnson would have viewed with scorn those of us who waste precious moments posting comments on Neil's blog, having observed to his young friend and biographer that "no one but a blockhead would write except to be paid for it."

    To the point of the column, I don't know that I was able to capitalize on attending a great university. But I learned a lot.


    1. One can learn a lot even at a community college. If someone hadn't pushed me to get a degree, I'd probably still be amassing credits at Truman College. Learning a lot and driving a cab to make a living.


  4. The course work was demanding. That plus a wish to avoid being the family misfit inspired me to overcome a natural indolence.

    And I had excellent professors, a few of them quite famous.



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