When the recession got particularly bad last February, a friend of mine who had been laid off from her job as a corporate public relations manager told me she was going back to school to earn her master's degree. Happy for her, I asked what she was going to study (thinking it would be some sort of degree in strategic communications or health care since that was her career background). Her answer: journalism.
I didn't understand at the time, but now I see that she wanted a structured program that would give her the practical tools in content production (to include video, audio and online content) as well as insight into the mindset and needs of today's busy journalists and media companies.
I noticed an interview by Fern Siegel with Stephen D. Soloman, associate director, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU, and Nicholas Lemann, dean of the graduate school of Journalism at Columbia University, discussing the future of journalism schools and journalism jobs. The piece is quite insightful. What struck me most about it was how much the journalism curriculum has changed with the times.
Both esteemed academics point out that journalism schools are evolving and more graduates may find themselves writing for online outlets as opposed to traditional newspapers or magazines. Consequently, more journalism schools have revamped their curriculum to include additional focus on content development for all students (not just those interested in production) as well as focus on specialized topics (e.g. arts and culture; business and economics; local reporting) to further prepare journalism students. What struck me, however, is how the new curriculum and specialized reporting focuses could be leveraged in the corporate, non-profit and government arenas.
While public relations is often viewed as "joining the dark side," by some (not all) in the journalism profession, it seems that journalism schools today are preparing their students for lasting and rewarding careers in the communications industry (outside of traditional journalism jobs). With almost every company and organization becoming its own publication house, demand for experienced and trained professionals who understand journalism practices and can produce content are very much in demand. With the media shrinking, organizations are looking for savvy individuals and agencies that understand the news media and can also produce compelling, informative and creative content to help generate awareness for their brand or cause.
I now understand why my friend chose to return to school for a master's in journalism. When she graduates next year, she will have a wealth of new tools and skills to offer to a new employer. When I ask her if she plans on finding a job in journalism, she smiles and says, "We'll see."