During a graduate class in methodology, I recall my professor Dr. Willie Braun saying that our literature degrees weren’t worth anything unless we produced some kind of tangible product that benefited society. (At least, this is “how I remember it”.) Of course, he was referring to journalism. He even booked a (Edmonton Sun? or Edmonton Journal?) newspaper writer to give us a class presentation, although she never showed up.
Why did Dr. Braun bring up journalism? Well, we had to hand in tiny articles, summaries or abstracts, that were more akin to journalism articles than our minimum 14 page argumentative MLA essays. Now a lit. degree does not make a journalist, then again a journalism degree doesn’t guarantee substance in any area of knowledge –just that you can “try” to effectively communicate and water concepts down to a high school and elementary reading levels. I’m intrigued by this, in how one explains complex concepts in a simple and precise manner, without butchering those concepts or patronizing readers.
I’ve read some awful journalism, that butchers subject material. When a magazine or newspaper author writes half-truths or mis-represents fields of study in which I majored, it’s apparent there is a failure to research, edit, or properly explain/simplify to aforementioned reading levels. It’s times like these, when I want to write emails to writers and/or editor-in-chiefs to remind them do their work properly. These problems I refer to are not solely idiosyncratic of writing, but also documentaries.
There is another issue that interests me, this being the difference between a literature degree or a university journalism degree versus an applied knowledge education in journalism, such as from a college/institute. I have my own preference (or is this a bias?). I think a writer should have a liberal arts education, and then learn the job skills, well …. on the job. This way, you not only develop good form, learn to effectively communicate, and learn what is newsworthy –things that are learned on the job– but you have something to say and can do so with some authority (because of your liberal arts education). If you want to minimize the job skills learning curve, then one could complement one’s liberal arts education with an applied knowledge college degree. Liberal arts education is first and primary –whether it be a literary or a journalism degree– otherwise you run the risk of being fairly ignorant on a lot of topics.
The Australian website <www.abc.net> has a thirteen episode audio/text series investigating different “cultures” of journalism. Episode twelve contrasts university journalism education against the applied knowledge college journalism route.
My own experience writing for the general public has so far been a positive one. Although in university, I’ve never been told that I have too many references. On the other hand, I had a terrible time writing for a university journal, which pit me against anal retentive, legalistic, prescriptive editors. Of course, differing ideologies surely contributed to the strife.
Note: For those of you writers blogging to learn something about writing,
whether you want to sharpen your communication skills or improve your
journalism, the following link should also be informative (in addition to the previous one).
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