J-School, journalism, Columbia University, NYU

Is J-School Worth It?

Posted 4 years, 8 months ago

A recent article, published in the Columbia Journalism Review asks: "Do We Need J-Schools?"

Very much in keeping with the  'middle of the road, let's try not to offend anyone' school of thought, CJR presents all three points of view - Yes, No and Maybe.

I think this is what they call 'balanced' in the news business.

At any rate, as the CJR does not invite comments, I thought I would pen my own repsonse here.

So: Do we need J-Schools?

Answer:  No.

Any questions?

Disclosure:  I am a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism (class of 1983). I also spent 8 years teaching at the Columbia J School and another 8 years teaching at NYU's journalism department. 

During that time, I watched as tuition at both institutions skyrocketed to pornographic heights, and no one said a word.

Today, the 9-month program the Columbia costs $105,820.  Are you kidding me.  Also, CJS offeres a 2-year program, (which they did not offer when I was there), which costs a mind-boggling $216,928.

When I went to the J-school, tuition was around $12,000, which I thought was a lot of money. My first job out of school was with Channel 13, which paid me about $25,000 a year.  If the salaries of journalists rose at the same rate as the cost of J-School, then starting salaries at Channel 13 for Production Assistants would be about $210,000. Which it isn't. 

When I was teaching at NYU, (tuition about $92,000 a year, when you add in housing costs), I had a very popular class. In my last year there, I had 360 students in my lecture.

I used to start each semester by telling the students to leave the class, go to the bursar's office, get their money back. Then I told them to take the money, go to B&H Photos and buy a video camera.  Then get a plane ticket to someplace interesting and far away, like Africa or South East asia, with a departure date in a week.

I told them then to come back to me, and I would teach them enough to get started.  Then, take the camera, get on the plane and do as much video reporting as you could, and send me the pieces. I would comment and critique. It would be a much better education.

Few took me up on it, except the faculty, who threw me out.

No one likes someone who bites that hand that feeds them!

After I left NYU, my wife Lisa and I built and launched TheVJ.com (where you are now), an online film/video/TV/journalism school.

It only costs $14.95  a month. 

If there was every any business that was ripe for disruption, it is Journalism School. 


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