What does having a journalism degree mean for social media?

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Man, I gotta say I was a little frustrated with Hamilton Nolan’s post on Gawker titled: “J-Schools Release Updated Bullshit Justifications for Own Existence

It was frustrating for a couple of reasons… 1) being that I sometimes-proudly wave my journalism degree around 2) I never got that newspaper gig I thought I’d land after school and 3) I’m using my degree for journalism’s weird frienemy: Marketing/Media/PR.

Frustrating, too, because some of the things this writer said were, unfortunately, kinda true. Sadly, you really don’t need a journalism degree to be a journalist. Sure, you’ll learn best practices, ethics and the context of print… but what’s really revered in real-world journalism is experience. Most of the journalists I’ve met over the years were Political Science majors, and sometimes very left-field degrees like Chemistry. I have a very odd outlook on the importance of a college degree… and that might change over time, but I guess for a lot of professions, it really doesn’t matter what you get a degree in. You just need to have the flex and experience to do the job– if you can’t prove that then go somewhere else. Very cutthroat, I’d say… and that’s why at some point I kinda lost interest in journalism as a profession.

In general, I think journalism school should really be called story-telling school. But you say, well get a creative writing degree… but J-school allows you to deal with real life the way CW probably can’t. J-school teaches you not only grammar, writing practices and format… but it also teaches you to get up and talk to people, to listen and truly consume your environment as a writer. Writing headlines and by-lines… that’s valuable information you can’t get with a political science degree, y’know?

How do you apply J-school standards to something like Social Media?

So over the past couple of months, I’ve slowly realized how close of a relationship my job is to someone like a beat editor at a newspaper.

Yet, the type of journalism I do is very different from the jou theories they’re teaching you at J-School. Journalism school has it that we present the truth in an objective, non-biased way… and what I do is present a truth in the most presentable way possible. I guess PR/marketing/social media really is about packaging and presenting facts. It’s weird… but I’m not in the business of non-bias.

So getting down to just the many ways what I do is J-School-esque:

-Scheduling posts on Hootsuite reminds me a lot of the way an editor decides when a story should go out. “This is good for the front-page, morning edition since it’ll be the first thing people see” feels a lot like, “this would be really good at 8:30 a.m. because this is really good content and most students are waking up and checking their phones at that time.”

-Writing tweets (and sometimes Facebook posts) has me re-editing myself constantly. That’s a huge j-school practice: re-edit yourself always.

-Tweets are essentially headlines… so write your tweet like you’re trying to grab someone from the page. What are you gonna say to make people click that link?

-At times, you’ll have to immerse yourself and actually go out and talk to students. Well that’s something I learned from J-school: going out, and gathering up the courage to talk to strangers. One of my old professors said it’s a fear that haunted him even after 30 years in the business.

-Grammar: it might seem ridiculous to pay a college tuition to learn how to write/speak properly… but there’s a shit-ton of people in this country that just don’t know how to write/communicate. It’s why there’s such a demand for communicators.

Which digs into my point that, yeah, j-school might seem completely void of value… but it’s usually housed within a school of communication. And that’s really what J-School is– it’s a school that teaches you how to communicate stories and ideas properly… so much so that it becomes naturally short-hand.

P.S. My blog is filled with grammar mistakes and that’s because it’s my blog.

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