A Note Regarding Michael Schudson and Journalism Schools

I was extremely intemperate yesterday on the matter of Michael Schudson, current Columbia J-School prof, and his contention that this age is a wonderful world of opportunity for journalists. So, a disclaimer: I’m sure that he is a wonderful sociologist and historian, I’m sure his books are fantastic, and I’m sure some students love him. (Though the ones I’ve talked to, who’ve taken his classes at Columbia, did not love him at all.) I have no reason to think he is not a great person, and a fantastic wealth of information. So I do regret going a little postal. But! And! Also! A couple of things!

I was flagrantly enraged by his bizarre take on the current age for a couple of reasons.

First was that I’d just talked to a mid-00’s Columbia J-school grad who was eating, for his meal that day, hot water with crushed-up vitamins in it.

Schudson, Nick Lemann and pretty much everyone else up at Columbia are perpetuating an obviously-failing scheme, in which they send young people into tens of thousands of dollars of debt while teaching them some basic skills that those students could and should learn by doing. That some of these professors discourage their students from actually working, for money, in the field while in school is outrageous.

There is a huge confusion about the use of j-schools as a place of academic inquiry (which is a good thing! Learning is good!) and as a trade school. As places that prepare people for a trade, they are a complete waste.

Since Schudson threw himself right into the gaping pit between his strength-academic inquiry-and investigation of the actual practice of journalism in these times… well, he’s going to be falling down that hole for a long time.

That there is nowhere at all for the last few graduating classes to work speaks very badly of the way a trade school is preparing their graduates. Nicholas Lemann and his pals up at Columbia J-School should produce a list of the class of 2008 and exactly where they are employed. I can do it for them, using the methods of “reporting,” if they give me a few weeks.

But, ah, the Internet. What a tricky place!

That another j-school prof, C. W. Anderson, who is an assistant professor of Media Culture at CUNY (and God bless CUNY, of course), and whose work is both fascinating and useful, referred to what I wrote as “poorly written linkbait, well:

1. Please hyphenate “poorly-written.” (OR NOT!)

2. That a discussion of media business models and j-schools could ever constitute “linkbait” is laughable. If I was working on linkbait, I’d be writing a post about that golfer who we have yet to ever name on this site.

3. If you’re interested in the intersection of media culture, journalism and capitalism, well, come aboard! Welcome to one of the few places on the Internet that cares about that.

That being said: I was mean to his friend, so I didn’t deserve a very nice response. I’m sorry I was so mean!

Finally, I’d love to know more about what j-school professors are actually doing to make the new version of the industry a place in which people can actually work, and any communication is quite welcome.