Monday, October 22, 2007

Using Your Journalism Degree To Name The School You Got It From

Man, is it just me or is this flap over Medill's name stupid?

(If you've missed it, Medill School of Journalism -- the first in the nation -- is
exploring a name change, "to better represent the school and what it offers." Romenesko's comments lit up with the possibilities.)

I try to keep the topics on this blog to be more serious in nature, but the more I read about this, the more I think -- man, this is stupid, stupid stuff. There are 101 things wrong in the journalism world, and here we are worrying about a name. It's kind of like George Bush forming a committee to rename the White House while we're in the middle of the war in Iraq.

Talk about priorities.

My undergraduate alma mater, New York University, did the same thing to its school of education. The former "Steinhardt School of Education" -- which housed classes in classical music, education, communications, and more -- into the "Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development," which is not only a mouthful, but shows the poor organization of a university that already has a College of Arts and Science and shows the poor initiative in naming a school after what basic skills all universities should offer: culture, education, and (hopefully), human development.

So, I ask this, the future "Medill School of Journalism and Integrated Marketing Communication": Do you really want to be the next Steinhardt?

Reactions have already been posted by students on the Daily Northwestern and faculty in conspicuous places, and it's not good. Reading them got me thinking: OK, so Medill wants to change what journalism means in the 21st century. Got it -- and we can debate whether marketing should enter journalism in another discussion. But does all that require a name-change, too?

Can't we just redefine what journalism is? Isn't it already being redefined as we speak?

It appears to me that Medill is losing focus -- and apparently, judging by Nancy Schwerzler's comments linked above, losing graduates to law school, too.

There's always been the push-pull of being in the journalism industry, but it's starting to seem as if Medill's moves are pushing the focused journalists out and in the process, making the degree irrelevant.

Journalists are already jacks-of-all-trades. That's largely what "journalism" is defined by. Do we really need a $40,000 piece of paper that expresses that, too?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post!
From where I sit, sadly, branding is everything. If your name (college or otherwise) doesn't evoke visions of qualified, hyper-competitive young people at the ready to take on re-visited dot-com era work-flow processes, than what good are you? If your school doesn't have a branded name within the minds of those doing the hiring, you're S-O-L.
I didn't go to a branded journalism school. The chip on my shoulder is so much smaller now AHEM!
Decisions about whom to hire should be based on the individual, what they have done, their academic commitment and can they simultaneously conduct an interview, hold a mic, watch their levels, listen to the room, ask knowledgeable questions and quickly think of something if events goes awry.
Medill turns out great people and I always try to visit while in Chicago. The staff and students are very professional and I have no trouble finding quality candidates from all economic and/or social backgrounds. I don't understand why they can't be satisfied with that.
It IS the point...

Doug Mitchell