Here's another item I wasn't going to touch: The uproar at Northwestern University, where Medill Dean John Lavine is being raked over the coals for writing a letter promoting the school in which he used an anonymous quote that he can't back up. But I am inspired by Gawker firing both barrels of double-ought snark into the middle of it:
All that self-referential ivory tower bullshit is not gonna do one thing to change the fact that all these kids are shelling out huge money in order to be trained for a dying business. We know that great journalists always, on instinct, attack their own bosses , like a trained pit bull will attack a baby. But it's time to get over it, and focus on something that actually matters. Because those Medill students are gonna be upset when the journalism industry continues to tank, their jobs don't exist, and this Dean Lavine story ends up being the biggest one of their entire careers. No mas.
And by Pat Thornton's observation:
For every Mindy McAdams there are 100 professors who don’t have a clue about the Web.
Getting a doctoral degree pulls you out of the real journalism world for 4 years. And four years is 1/3 of the entire life of the web. You’re dead in online journalism with that gaping hole.
Here's the deal. This is not about John Lavine citing an unnamed student who he says liked the changes he's making at Medill.
This storm began the day Lavine was appointed dean with a mandate to radically change Medill, to tear it apart and rebuild it to meet the needs of the 21st century. This outsider, this unholy businessman, crashes into the Church of the Journalist, suspends the arcane rules of the academy and starts pushing an integrated marketing and communications program and jiggy new multimedia studies and setting up a satellite school in Qatar funded by the Qatari government. For cryin' out loud, they don't even have a First Amendment there.
Suddenly the whole world is turned upside-down, the tenured faculty is in a snit, and a bunch of people who have a lot of time on their hands are looking for something, anything, they can use against this apostate in dean's clothing.
I haven't visited Northwestern's campus in years, but I spent time with some great Medill students and faculty last year, and I've talked with Lavine, and I've been watching with interest as this unfolds. I don't think there are any villains in this opera. Lavine has a plan that he thinks will reposition Medill so that it can prepare students for the world of 2025. Some of the faculty fears that these changes represent the end of cherished values.
I think the angry faculty who are fighting change need to step out of their comfort zones and take a really hard look at their assumptions, their motives, and their own skill sets. In the future we need great editors who can act as -- gasp -- the chief marketing officers, content strategists, and product leaders of their journalistic organizations. This will require a mastery of tools and techniques not taught in a 1970-style reporting and editing course.
Some of the students need to wake up and see that they're not looking ahead to the world of 2025. Being a student, as opposed to a mere pupil, means that you take responsibility for your own education. Getting trained for old-media jobs that may not survive to see the end of your student loan isn't responsible behavior.
And all of those responsible for the utter lack of perspective and proportion being shown in this matter need to take a cold shower. Journalism is about news judgment as much as it's about digging, and I'm not seeing it displayed in this case.