A couple of university-based student newspaper article show that j-school students are not being prepared for the reality of the present situation of a dead profession, let alone the future.
We have one article about a speech, and it is interesting that the speaker had this to say:
[T]he shift will give new power to the future journalists, though it may take some time for them to establish themselves.
“I can’t imagine there is a single model that will work. I’m sure a number of approaches will be employed to appeal to customers. The most important thing will be for reporters to go after stories that are fresh, different, relevant and interesting,” she said.
“The days of presenting yesterday’s news are over now that we are shifting to the immediacy of the digital world. I think people are slowly realizing journalism doesn’t come for free and that quality journalism is something they have to pay for.”
This is again the jilted first-wife logical fallacy: sooner or later, people will come back. There is no consideration that the profession alienated the public who had an alternative and flocked to it instead.
And the “shifting” to the Internet? That happened twenty years ago. We have an entire generation of adults who grew up with the Internet.
Yet the press still talks as if this was just happening within the last couple of years.
And people are not paying for journalism. Journalists are losing their jobs in droves. This isn’t the first time media outlets tried a pay-per-view model. What we are seeing is something else: the abandonment of journalism. You cannot have Newsweek having its own internal turmoil, a raid on its offices, and then making colossal errors in their new stories, and then think people are going to believe the press. You have a crisis that has led to an implosion, and yet you would never know it from this speech.
The second article is about a recent CJR Fear and Pity Tour entitled “Journalism under Trumpism”. The headline itself is very telling of who is going to get the label of villain. Instead of looking inward on how to reinvent a collapsed profession, it is going to be how readers should absolutely go back to journalism outlets because they will be helpless in the onslaught of Trumpism.
The speakers concede that, yes, there were declines before Trump, but they do not look too deeply at them. This panelist’s comments are interesting:
“So that goes back to how do we gain the trust and how do we fix the business model? And there isn’t an easy answer.” She, however, emphasized transparency as a possible method to win back people’s trust. “When you look at why the media has lost trust, [in North America], people think that they [the media] have hidden biases and agendas,” she said, “So if you’re upfront with your agenda then at least you’ve gotten rid of part of that lack of trust.”
There is no attempt to question one’s own perceptions of reality. There is no question on whether our own habits and confines that we take for granted harmed the profession. “Well, I am biased, deal with it,” is not journalism. It is partisan propaganda, and the profession already went through it, and then abandoned it precisely because you cannot gain trust when you do not empathize or have the emotional literacy to look at the big picture as you empirically gain facts.
When I worked as a journalist, I would map out a story. I would see who were the players and issues, and then research on similar cases. I would then research on individuals. I would then speak to experts and many of them with different perspectives. What I am looking at? A lot of times, someone would tell me things that that there was no way I could consider because I didn’t have the background to be able to do it.
For example, I wrote an article on “cyber crime” and I had the opportunity to interview a profession who used to be a police officer. His perspective was absolutely unique. So I interviewed him, and he gave me food for thought: very rarely do we call a crime based on the weapon of choice. Cyber crime is such a case, but we don’t talk about “hammer” crime. He did point out that when cars were first used as getaway vehicles, the term “autobanditry” was used.
Another expert on the same story had a unique job of analyzing technology used in such crimes, such as doctored ATM machines. Still another explained that many doctors and lawyers were victims of phishing scams, particularly if their loved one had cancer, and they were desperate. A prosecutor explained how difficult these crimes were to prosecute because you needed warrants for every country an illegal email, for instance, went through.
SoI would interview people affected by the issue I was writing about. There are multiple filters, and multiple processes. Sometimes, when it is breaking news, the process is reversed, but at no time do I impose biases on the matter because I am there to inform.
If I were to, for example, discuss how First Nations murder victims are treated in the courts, I would start looking at the two most obvious and recent cases. I’d read the court transcripts. Then I would look at other, previous cases, and see where that takes me.
Then I would look at cases that never went to trial.
I would interview experts on it, but not just legal experts or Aboriginal activists and scholars. I would make certain to find other areas where there are vulnerabilities, and see how those systems work. What are the rigs? What is the gold standard?
Then I would compare how First Nations murder victims compare to white, black, and other groups. I would compare based on gender, age, geographical location within the same group.
You start talking to lawyers. You start finding patterns. Is it outright racism? Is it an outdated system? Is it more than one variable? Is this the same old problem, is it bad, but nowhere near the past — or is this absolutely an implosion and decline of the worst sort?
My white woman-ness is not a factor if I am doing information-gathering right because you have a list of questions. You allow everyone you interview to talk for as long as they wish. I rarely guided interviews because people had a lot to tell me. I was always patient. I always asked if there was anything I missed, I asked if there were misconceptions, things people needed to know, but never seemed to, and the like.
In other words, I would basically direct my interviewees to tell me where I am stupid.
Believe me, people did tell me, albeit always very graciously. I never pretend to know more than the person I was interviewing. I never had a narrative going in. I always always surprised at the outcome once I had my data in.
I didn’t speak for other people: I let them speak for themselves. I also let the facts speak for themselves. I never had someone complain that I twisted their words and intent, and very often, interview subjects would drop me a line to thank me for letting them say what they needed to say without spin or misinterpretation.
I wasn’t a stenographer; however, but I wasn’t a propagandist, either. I presented the reality and the truth. I did not tell readers how to think. They didn’t have to agree with the interviewees — nor did they have to disagree with them, either. I hunted. I gathered. I showed what my haul was. I had respect for readers not to impose a point of view on them as I gave them many different voices and facts to ponder.
I built layers in my articles. That people have different points of view is reality, and my stories reflected on it. I wasn’t telling people how to think or who to cheer. I went looking for hard to find information. I went digging in old archives, and grumbled having to pay for court transcripts that I had to drive for miles to get. I read academic studies as I vetted experts. I gathered every article I could find on a topic to see what was already covered, and what still needed to be said.
When I wrote, I was the student. When my article was published, I was the teacher.
J-school students do not get any sort of guidance to how bad the industry has collapsed. They are in some time hole where it is still 1995.
I was a j-school student in 1995. Times have changed radically since then.
But somehow, the profession’s education has been left behind, and it has been giving students a very wrong idea of what they need to do once they graduate.
They need to understand there is no profession. A new one has to be built from scratch.
And there are in way prepared to create it..