CU Journalism School, good riddance

The University of Colorado at Boulder decided to shut down its journalism school and is looking to reboot the program, with President Bruce Benson seeking feedback from media-industry pros. It's a peculiar question in the Westword office, since many past and present writers never went to any journalism school, let alone CU's.

I attended CU Boulder as an undergraduate in the early 2000's, but I was never allowed to take a single class at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. I was an English major in the Creative Writing department.

Alhough supremely confident that my free verse poetry would propel me into a future of fame and financial security, I still wanted to take entry-level reporting and magazine writing courses to round out my skills. But each time I tried to sign up for classes, I was declined. They said only full-fledged students of the J-school were allowed in the door. It seemed there was an academic wall built around the school that permitted only the lucky few inside to learn the secrets of AP style and the upside-down pyramid.

In the years that I've paid the bills through writing, I've met just as many professional reporters and media producers who earned degrees in things like anthropology, film and economics as ones who emerged from a formal journalism program.

In retrospect, the CU J-school's ridiculous policy was just one indicator of the backward-facing thinking that led the institution down a path of increasing irrelevancy in the digital era. It's not news to anyone that the journalists who are most successful at getting gigs in this ever-shifting industry possess the ability to adapt stylistically, intellectually and technologically. A program with an underlying structure still based in 1985 just couldn't do that. It had to die.

One of the recommendations being offered by the committee tasked with envisioning a new type of school for media students is that "the campus should create a double major -- in journalism and a liberal arts subject of the student's choosing."

That, I think, is a good start.

More from our Education archive: "CU journalism school possible-closure headlines went from premature to inaccurate, dean says."

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Jared Jacang Maher

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