Journalism: Most Useless College Degree?

Today I stumbled on the most alarming article I have ever consumed since I could read my A,B,Cs… Journalism Tops List of Most Useless College Degrees. Rounding up the top 5 were Horticulture, Agriculture, Advertising and Fashion Design. For anyone who has dedicated a first, second and third degree to the pen-wielding profession, this is surely a guaranteed heartbreaker.

I threw this revelation open to my friends on Twitter and got some reactions I would like to share here. @stillspencer said  “no disrespect, but journalism is not what it used to be. Too many amateurs degrading the profession. Game changers needed to fix journalism.” @thudson13 almost made me burst into tears with his response. He said, “That’s depressing. Although hardly surprising. Maybe I should have gone into computer science or engineering”. For a profession I love, that hit me like a break-up letter, but understandably so :)

I don’t think Journalism assumed this somewhat lowly position overnight. As soon as the Internet began its viral spread across societies, one didn’t need a seer to envisage the encroaching break down of professional journalism practice. With the influx of the Internet alongside other developments in information and communication technologies, everyone became equipped to become a journalist of some sort. The Citizen Journalists.

Bainca Vazquez Toness, a professional journalist, was able to use her iPhone to record a top-notch broadcast-quality sound interview for a radio program, upon forgetting her huge radio kit at home.  C’mon we are all aware of the classroom-overused expression founded by Marshal McLuhan, “the world is now a global village”.

I refuse to perceive the useless list (pun intended) as a pointer to the fact that Journalism may be losing it’s value as a profession. Rather, I choose to see it this way: Journalism is finally going to be practiced the way it should have been practiced. I know this sounds ironic, so I will expatiate on my view.

The obligation of a Journalist is to serve as the watch-dog of the society, the 4th estate-of-the realm and all that journalese we were taught in class. Wouldn’t you agree with me that the more the merrier it would be to perform that function?

So Journalism is no longer a ‘closed-cult’ for the certificate holders, but an ‘open-air-party’, so what?

The more (citizen) reporters there are to check and balance the government for instance, the better it is for the society I must confess. When a politician realizes for instance, that every member of his immediate environment is a prospective journalist, I trust he/she would behave his or herself.

On a final note, I take solace in the fact that the chaff will always be separated from the wheat. Professionalism will always stand-out from amateurism. Journalism has never promised a fat-pay-cheque (I have discussed this on Teesdiary: Journalism: Glamour or Glitz), and it still won’t in the future.

Oh I forgot to mention Jeff Jarvis has an Entrepreneurial Journalism program running at  CUNY. It proposes new business models for news. So actually, if you are very smart in this digital age, you may get away with being a professional and taking home a cheque worth boasting about.

It is your call whether to be a professional journalist or a citizen reporter. Eitherway, you still serve the good of the society, and that is all that matters. Better still, be like me and simply combine the two, mashing them all up in a lofty research article  (pulling your legs) :p

I have a strong feeling this post is going to generate lots of reactions, and frankly, I am looking forward to it. Let’s roll – I’ll be on hand to respond.

The Media Junkie

Photo credits: Google Images

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7 thoughts on “Journalism: Most Useless College Degree?

  1. adeola says:

    As much as it pains me to agree that journalism has become a useless college degree to pursue , I have no reasons not to. What I meant about amateurs taking over the profession is: the people who are in the journalism industry today are not seasoned journalist. Gone are the days when people had to pay their dues to earn their credibility. These days I read the newspapers , watch the news or read a blog and all I can do is think that maybe I should take up journalism on the side and make money even though I am a trained lawyer. Now that is wrong.

    • Tomi Oladepo says:

      Thank you for your comment Adeola.

      I agree that non-professionals practicing the profession is on rampant increase. But does that warrant for studying the profession to be classified as useless, I beg to differ. The fact that there are quack medical doctors and traditional herbalists who perform the same function of tending to patients does not make studying professional medicine useless. Like I mentioned in the post, the professionals would always stand-out from the amateurs. the fact that you can identify the quacks implies you would recognize a professional when you see one.

      To look on the brighter side of the divide, I choose to see influx of non-professional journalists as a development that might benefit the profession in the long run (but only if properly managed). A good example of properly managing citizen journalists would be CNN’s iReport platform. The moment professionals can come to terms with the fact that the masses have access to these tools albeit no training, and embrace them – we can form an awesome community, sweetly blended and united for the purpose of informing, educating and entertaining the society (those three are the primary functions of mass communication).

  2. Jaycee (E.A) says:

    Professionalism will always stand-out from amateurism.

    That says it all. In every profession, whether it gets crowded or not, those who do what they do excellently well will always be recognized. So instead of the term “useless,” I would say Journalism is “overcrowded.” An overcrowded territory usually produces less fruits unless the weeds are removed. Weeds suck up nutrients which should be dedicated only to green plants.

  3. toluogunlesi says:

    First things first, if I were you I’d be wary of these lists. Sometimes they exist simply to create controversy: highest paying professions, least paying jobs, most useless degrees etc – simply one person’s opinion fascinatingly presented as fact :)

    *

    Now, let me share this from Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the UK Guardian:

    “The newspaper of the future may or may not look like a newspaper – it could be printed on paper, on a screen or exist in electronic ink on a sheet of plastic. But it will behave like a newspaper.”

    It’s a changing world. Boundaries are being redrawn and in some cases wiped out. Journalism, like many other professions will have to redefine itself in the age of social networking and ubiquitous technology.

    But it should be grateful that it’s functions will continue to be required in the world, in democracies and even in dictatorships. As long as governments and states and citizens continue to exist, so will journalists.

    Today’s journalists need to ask themselves important questions – who am I, what am I doing, what am I supposed to be doing, what does the society expect of me?

    It is the answers to these questions that will determine the individual future of every journalist. Citizen journalists, useful as they are, cannot provide the kind of sustained engagement that traditional media provide, and do not have access to the same resources. In many cases they still have to depend on traditional media, “old-school” journalists.

    Paraphrasing Rusbridger: “The journalist of the future may or may not look like that of the past/present, but s/he will have to continue to fulfill the fundamental functions of journalism – inform, expose, analyse, uphold, entertain, etc”

    • Tomi Ola says:

      This about sums up the entire argument. Take-away points for me are the following:
      1. Be wary of these lists
      2. Journalism needs to redefine itself in this age of social media; sticking to the old way of things is detrimental to the profession
      3. Journalists themselves need to answer the following questions:who am I, what am I doing, what am I supposed to be doing, what does the society expect of me? (I daresay those are tough questions to answer of oneself even in everyday life)
      4.As long as governments and states and citizens continue to exist, so will journalists.

      Thank you Tolu.

  4. Nas says:

    I totally agree with Tolu, i do believe the professionals have to ask themselves those questions in order to differentiate themselves as professionals. Jaycee got the perfect word for it, it’s not useless but overcrowded. The amatuers rely on the professionals to pretend they are journalists. Without the professional touch of the producers of the iReport, i doubt if it will be the success it is right now. I will say that because of citizen journalists, the professional journalist needs to sit up and be above the amatuer attempt of citizen journalists.

    • Tomi Ola says:

      Nas you have made a very solid point there. No matter how useless being a professional may seem, the citizen journalists will forever be in need of traditional media to make maximum impact. Thank you for this insight.

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