Wednesday, February 20, 2008

LEAKED Memo from Columbia Journalism School

The recently "leaked" memo of Nick Lemann, dean of Columbia Journalism School, has become quite a story. The memo, a self-evaluation to the provost, was "accidentally" sent to Columbia J-School students when he was supposed to be sending their their final evaluations. Anyway, the long "secret" memo basically says the students finally are going to figure out their trade is not making any money, and it's not worth it to pay so much money to go to Columbia.

The primary orientation of journalism schools, including ours, is toward conferring skills associated with entry-level practice; almost the entire discourse in journalism education is internal to journalism and concerned with professional norms and practices, rather than with how to understand the world we are supposed to cover….When journalism schools feel moved to take a next step after skills instruction, they usually devote their energies to exhorting the profession to do a better job—a good cause, certainly, and something we do a lot of here. Developing non-skills curriculum generates very little interest in the world of journalism education... The question of what journalism amounts to as a discipline—what distinctive body of knowledge, which intellectual and analytic tools, what way of thinking might be associated with it and might therefore be taught in journalism schools—simply doesn't energize journalism educators, even though every manifesto and mission statement we as a group produce mentions it as a desideratum.
About an hour after he sent the e-mail, Lemann sent an apology titled, "Freudian slip?" "Make of that mistake what you will," he told the students, again, because he is dying to be judged — not even for just his own shortcomings but those of the profession as a whole.

Here's the memo in its entirety: Memos from Columbia Graduate School of Journalism Dean Nicholas Lemann [Romenesko]

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