It seems that with every passing day, two phrases grow in popularity: “Print journalism is dying” and “We are the technologically savvy generation.”
In a way, it is true. Everything is online, and that has hurt the print industry. At the same time, social media is on the rise, and many teenagers and college students have grown up with online networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
It seems that the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism listened to those phrases. The school recently announced that the print journalism and broadcast journalism majors will be changed to print and digital journalism as well as broadcast and digital journalism. This is extremely good news.
Despite the announcement, there is no overt shake up. Current print journalism majors can stay with their current majors and not make the switch, and the change in curriculum has not been immediate. The name change comes on the end of a decade of a journalism school slowly shifting toward online media.
The new major offers insight into three major views on the school’s part: It is not stuck in the past, it is embracing new media and it is not wholly abandoning the basics that have made journalism work. Instead of making a stubborn decision to stay in one era or rabidly jump on every new trend, the school is staying focused on the big picture.
Print journalism, despite what the doomsayers might say, will never die. Yes, newspapers are losing circulation, and profits are falling because of decreased advertisement sales. However, will the The New York Times or Wall Street Journal really fade away? It is highly unlikely. They are major parts of the economic and informational well-being of the country and the world. More than likely, the print industry will continue the trend it is currently on: sharing content with both an online and physical publication. So yes, the actual hard copies are decreasing in circulation, but the institutions of print journalism are still going strong.
There is another reason why print journalism will survive. Even as bloggers and Internet users begin to contribute content as citizen journalists, many still lack the writing format, style and ethics of the print journalism industry.
Newspaper and magazine content is relatively trustworthy because there is a guarantee of oversight. Editors constantly fact check and make sure articles do not violate any ethical standpoint. This allows for a level of impartiality. With rogue news sources such as blogs, there is oftentimes no oversight, and the content has a greater likelihood of descending into an opinionated rant.
By not abandoning the print side of the major, the school is ensuring that, even as print institutions expand to the Internet, the next generation of journalists does not lose its sense of professionalism. And in a time when self-appointed punditry and opinion seem to be all the rage, this is a good sign.
At the same time, the new major’s name suggests an expansion in the courses offered. While the print and digital journalism major is currently identical to the print journalism major in terms of curriculum, that does not mean that new, social media-focused classes won’t emerge in the future.
If those cliché sayings are true, then we really are the tech savvy generation. Sure, Generation X had hacking and a cyberpunk mentality, but college students, no matter what their engineering or computer skills, are familiar with e-mail, social networking and web content, whether they realize it or not.
Looking at news agencies today, there is a sense of clumsiness when it comes to social media. While there are many people at the major news networks who know how to effectively use social media, there sadly is a large number who do not. Pundits who awkwardly ask for Twitter or Facebook comments only hurt their credibility. They clearly do not know what they are talking about. Our generation, with basic knowledge and with classes that might be offered under this new major as it expands, can help integrate social networking with the flow of news.
The new major is nothing revolutionary at the moment, but it shows significant promise. The school seems to understand the necessity to adapt to the changing times, and yet stick with what works. I look forward to progressive new courses.
It looks like I have a new major.
Nicholas Slayton is a sophomore majoring in print journalism.