Networked Journalism Education

The Philosophy of Journalism as antidote to what ails us

without comments

As educators struggle to cram more into the journalism curriculum, journalism history courses are easy targets for elimination or reduction. Yet Carlin Romano argues journalism history should be required of all journalism students, along with comparative journalism and philosophy of journalism courses. Despite the sure disagreement with this recommendation, I think he’s right. Here’s why:

(1) A lack of history leads journalists to believe that the current incarnation of journalism is the only one that has ever existed or has value. That thinking now makes it hard for journalists to be flexible about new ways of doing journalism.

(2) A lack of history leads journalists to believe that current practices are inviolate. It makes it difficult for them to question what they do critically.

(3) A lack of history about one’s own discipline or profession makes it less likely that the history of other professions and practices would be of interest. That knowledge enriches journalism work and makes it more valuable than work that lacks context.

The same could be said of comparative journalism (the American way is not the only way to do journalism) and the philosophy of journalism (giving journalism students an opportunity to explore in depth what truth is and what matters in a partisan-driven postmodern digital network.)

In other words, by failing to educate students deeply about the nature and history of journalism, we eventually left our entire profession vulnerable to obsolence like so many other types of industrial age “products.” If we saw our work as a historical process of community conversation, we might be far more ready to take advantage of the changes now hitting what appears to be a totally unprepared industry. We ignore these courses at the peril of long term survival.

What should we drop from the curriculum to make space for these courses? The first thing might be to question the old accrediting rule of requiring students to take 75% of their coursework outside of journalism. Rather than filling their schedules with liberal arts courses outside our own walls, we could be more sure about what our own discipline has to offer to the liberal arts.

Here’s Romano’s suggestion, as it appears in the Chronicle of HIgher Education:

Every journalism student should be required to take a course in journalism history. It’s essential for young journalists to understand how our peculiar institution developed, and that it is not a natural kind—it can be changed and reformed. Every journalism student should also be required to take a course in “Comparative Journalism,” a flagrant lacuna in the field, to understand that the American model and its issues, which predominate in all American journalism programs, is not the world.

Most important, every journalism student should be required to take a course in “Philosophy of Journalism,” to develop the intellectual instincts and reflexes that will make the approach to truth of both practices a permanent part of his or her intellectual makeup. Imagine a world in which every column about the Obama administration’s battle with Fox News came with profound context about the large issues involved. A sweet, rather than tweet, thought…

Universities and foundations could do their part to mine this rich tradition. Before directing more Knight and other grants to further repetitive Twitter and Internet “experiments,” they should support a core intellectual curriculum in journalism studies that would make a far greater difference to future excellence in the field.

We Need ‘Philosophy of Journalism,‘ Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov. 15 2009

Written by Donica

November 20th, 2009 at 10:47 am

Leave a Reply