Journalism, A Worthless Degree?

Your father says a degree in journalism promises a less secure future than degrees in STEM. Your mother thinks an art degree will keep you safe from the dangerous assignments journalists undertake. This 2012 article by Forbes comments on a report by Career Cast that lists journalism as the fifth worst job, above oil riggers and lumberjacks, with waitressing ironically listed as the sixth worst position.

Perhaps you’re better off flipping burgers.

There is much to be said in favour of modern journalism. By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community. -Oscar Wilde

Does a journalism degree doom a perspective University graduate to a life of flipping burgers and taking orders? Just what does one do with a degree in extensive Google searching?

The truth is, we do not know what degrees and skills will be valuable in the future. But I suspect that the digitally uninclined will have a hard time adjusting to an increasingly online presence. It is impossible to navigate a technology-driven world without learning the tools to keep your business or vision above the water. The education journalism offers hands you those tools–from working with video to creating websites–that is a vital asset in just about every field.

Could we have foreseen the flood of digital content to our online marketplaces? How about the role social media would play in government administrations? Could we have predicted that smartphones would lend us our most valuable tools–our voices amplified to a global audience?

Go-getters in the journalism field will find steady careers in traditional news media. Not the type cut out for the morning television broadcast? Journalism majors also swarm to work in the radio, online news, print publications, public relations, design, advertising, advocacy, non-profits, education and more.

It is an exciting time to be a journalist. Journalism is undergoing a renaissance thanks to the switch from print to online. What spelled the death of newspapers opened the door to a new method of news consumption emphasizing multimedia and community engagement. We have more options too. No longer limited to one television broadcast, the local radio, and a few newspapers, we have access to a swarm of information at the touch of our fingertips.

When I began my degree as a journalism major, I had a choice between writing, radio, photography, and broadcast. In the four short years since I have witnessed a shift in my program to embrace the latest tools for communication on the market. Now, I am learning to blend all forms of multimedia into comprehensive news packages. I am learning to edit video, audio, photos, and written texts into community interactive content. What’s better? I’m taught to use smartphone apps that allow me to accomplish all this in the field.

Could the journalism of our parents’ time do that?

Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. -Thomas Jefferson

But, alas, journalism is dead.

Wrong, it is more alive–and more vital–than ever.

The Elements of Journalism state this:

  1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.

  2. Its first loyalty is to citizens.

  3. Its essence is a discipline of verification.

  4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.

  5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power.

  6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.

  7. It must strive to keep the significant interesting and relevant.

  8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.

  9. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.

  10. Citizens, too, have rights and responsibilities when it comes to the news.

Idealistic, no? I cannot imagine a more pressing time for experienced, dedicated, and yes, idealistic journalists than today’s political climate. We need journalists who take their job seriously. We need independent journalists who serve as a watchdog to systems in power. We need advocacy journalists who provide a voice to the voiceless. We need investigative journalists who will unearth injustices in their own backyards. We need international journalists in the political sphere. A well-informed public keeps society from sinking into the sludge hole of misinformation and fear-mongering. Education keeps annoying Facebook click bait at bay.

And hey, maybe you graduate with a journalism degree and life takes you in a totally unexpected direction. Maybe you find passion in education, filmmaking, business, politics, blogging, or, the (lovingly) light propaganda of public relations. The good news is that the skills you acquire in journalism translate across many fields.


I hope you find your university experience more than a job training program. I hope that life is more than a job training program. We are unfinished beings in the process of discovering ourselves again and again. I hope that university broadens your world view and shapes you into a competent, well-informed, well-rounded individual, no matter which degree you choose.

Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.




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