Is A Journalism Degree Like An Education Degree?

Earlier this month on Clay Shirky wrote one of those “I told you so” pieces about the death of newspapers, to which one can only reply, “OK, we knew it then and we know it now, but what exactly do you suggest be done, Clay?”

In the comments, though, AB3A talks about “specialized journalists,” which reminded me of a conversation I once had with a teacher. I questioned the value of an “education degree” (developed to meet union control of supply state licensing requirements) and suggested that a teacher might be better off majoring in another subject like, say, math. My friend asked why I would want a teacher to major in math, to which I responded, “Maybe because she’s going to teach math?” With journalists then, a reasonable question to ask is if it’s easier to teach a science reporter about science or about journalism?

More to the point, though, is how can we get members of the community with specialized knowledge involved in the reporting of the news? Yes, community features on news Web sites help, but it really requires more effort. Why not “deputize” community members in certain areas and let them write on their own topics?  After all, they’d be well positioned to know the important stories in their areas. More content, greater expertise, more community involvement, and maybe one small way to help provide content as newsroom staffs shrink.

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