My "other" alma mater, the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University (MSJ ’78), has a new Dean.
His name is John Lavine. The most promising portion of his vitae is that he has been a Media Management professor for two decades, first at the University of Minnesota, then at NWU’s Kellogg School.
The least promising portion of his vitae is at right, a chart he offered detailing his vision for the school 15 years from now. It is busy, it is confusing, and it misses the most vital piece of education any journalist must get if they’re to make a success in the future.
Every journalist today is an entrepreneur. They run, at minimum, their own name, their own brand. If journalists are to be relevant, they must be taught the skills they need to make a new industry out of the shards which exist now.
Yet the second question Lavine is asked in an interview for the school’s alumni magazine, The Medillian, is this:
"For graduates to be uniquely prepared to have a significant role in the companies who will employ them, what must Medill do?"
At this point, Lavine should have smacked his questioner upside the head. Continuing to think of journalists as mere hirelings is wrong.
Research, yes. Storytelling, yes. Organization, yes. Tools, yes. But business and entrepreneurship are what must be at the heart of journalism education today, or that education is worthless.
If you’re teaching journalism students to be "employed," you are not doing them any favors. You are, in fact, teaching them to be unemployed.
So what would you do different, Mr. Know-it-all?
If I were to advise young journalists as to what they should do and where they should go it would be this:
- Write. Produce a blog starting today. Take responsibility for what you say there.
- Learn all the software you can, on every platform. The process of learning tools means more than the tools themselves.
- Learn the Web. This will be your pallette.
- Read and write all you can. Get an English degree, at the best
institution that will take you, with as many interdisciplinary courses
as you can get — science, humanities, and liberal arts.
- Then, go to a graduate school of business. Kellogg is a fine one. There are others.
Go where Lavine is coming from. Become an employer, not the employed.