I don’t know about you, but I was actually kind of surprised to read this. Forbes announced this week that enrollment in journalism schools is up, a surprising statistic when most everything in this economy is down, including newspapers. I was especially caught by this news when just a week ago CBS Sunday Morning ran a story called “Stop the Presses,” in which they talked about how crippled the newspaper business has become. The story lamented the end of an era for print journalism, citing bankruptcies, layoffs and even closed doors for many large and small newspapers. Print circulations are down, as is ad spending in newspapers.
So it makes sense that the degree program to land you one of these jobs is filling classroom seats… right? Newspaper journalism might be mourning its twilight, but journalism is most certainly not dead. While the Internet can be primarily blamed for the downward turn for print, it can also be heralded for creating an almost romantic resurgence in journalism. Computers and Web publishing don’t come with that hardened, musty newsroom feel, but it does open more doors, allow for more creative approaches to reporting, and reach more of the people we want to have hear our stories anyway.
According to the Forbes report, enrollment in journalism programs at Columbia are up 38%, 20% at Stanford and 6% at NYU. Even state schools are enjoying the surge, with an increased enrollment of 25% at the University of Maryland. They aren’t doing it for the love of the money, just the game, according to Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia School of Journalism. “I’ve never met a single person in 35 years who went into journalism out of pure economic reason,” Lemann says.
In 2007, those with graduate degrees in journalism earned an average of $40,000 per year, that’s $10,000 more than those with bachelor’s degrees, and almost $10,000 more than the annual cost of tuition, room and board.
Where will these new journalism grads find employment? The Bureau of Labor Statistics says we’ll see an increase of 2% by 2016 in positions for entry-level reports and anchors, writers and editors will increase by 10%, and everyone else will find their way in the digital media and freelance opportunities.
In an article at TechCrunch titled “Who the Hell is Enrolling in Journalism Right Now?”, Sarah Lacy discusses her accidental career as a journalist and her bewilderment by this surge. Here is an exerpt:
So who the hell are all these people enrolling in journalism schools? Forbes has reported today that enrollment is soaring, even though nearly one-sixth of newspaper jobs have evaporated since 2001, and those left pay an average of $40,000 a year— just slightly more than journalism school will cost you. I know people do crazy things in a recession, but taking out a student loan for a degree that won’t give an edge in a wheezing industry actually makes getting an MBA look smart.
It’s not that I’m pessimistic about the future for good journalists. Quite the opposite, in fact. Journalism isn’t dying; it’s just in a period of extreme volatility. And in any time of volatility, there’s huge room for opportunity. But you’re not going to learn how to exploit it in a stuffy classroom taught by people who got there by working at newspapers.