A Proper Substitution?

Lee C. Bollinger, the president of Columbia University and a participant in the decision process to award the Pulitzer prizes in journalism every year, had this to say about journalism schools in his book Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open: A New Press for a New Century*:

Historically, [journalism schools] have been among the weaker academic programs in universities. Some are mere vocational programs, teaching students how to do what they will do on their first day of work as reporters. Others have focused on the theoretical study of systems of mass communication. For in-depth inquiry into politics, economics, science, or culture, most journalism schools have sent their students to other departments for general courses on those subjects . . .

There are many reasons that this has been so. Journalism students cannot look forward to high salaries upon graduation, which puts pressure on schools to abbreviate the time before the awarding of degrees and to stress practical skills rather than deeper knowledge that will sustain journalists over the course of their careers . . .

The primary reason, though, is substantive: Journalism schools must develop the content, or knowledge, needed by professionals devoted to reporting on what is happening in the world. (p. 154-55)

The janky highlighting is my own, and the reason for it, as well as for the extensive quotation, is this: do you think in every instance where “journalism school” is mentioned, one may insert in its place “library school” (likewise, everywhere “journalists” or “reporters”, “librarians”, and “reporting”, “disseminating information to the community”)? Would Bollinger’s assessment still be sensible with such substitutions?

Or, can the opposite case be made: that instead of being too short (most library programs are two years compared to journalism one) and too focused on practical skills, library schools are unnecessarily long and demanding on its students’ resources without returning commensurate benefits in the practical — but very important — area of equipping its students of the ability to get jobs in field of librarianship upon graduation?

I think a case may be made for both sides, and reasonable ppl can disagree on the matter. Whether library school maybe too practical, not practical enough, or — a third option — just perfect (or at least not imperfect enough to merit more than at-the-margin changes) is an important discussion to have. In a job market that is both tight and constantly changing, discussion and scrutiny are not something the ALA Accreditation Program wishes to engage in alone.

______________________________

*: This book is part of the Inalienable Rights Series that was discussed earlier on this blog.

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