Saturday, July 18, 2009

J-Schools & B-Schools

Richard Sine, who writes for free (as do all HuffPo writers) over at the Huffington Post, wraps up his article "Close the J-Schools" (7/15/09) with the following sentiment:

"It dawned on me that the new business models that may save journalism were much more likely to come from the business school than the journalism school. At times I felt like closing down the J-school and sending most of those kids straight across campus, to the shiny new B-school."
While Mr. Sine is correct about the business models, closing down the journalism schools is a bad idea.
(Continued after the Jump)

The two core years of journalism classes instill in future journalists in ways few others can, the critical value of integrity, truth, and how to translate that to the written word. History of failed reporters' past, from plagiarism to just plain making stories up, are dissected. How to write a compelling story by deconstructing well written ones, and so on. The same holds true for photography schools, from Western Kentucky to Missouri, Syracuse, to RIT, to Brooks. All teach photography, and some specialize in photojournalism. Sine defends his suggestion of limiting enrollment or closing schools by saying "If you screw up, nobody dies, and nothing collapses." While true in a direct manner, it is indirectly not true. People take action all the time based upon reports in the press. When a city mayor is being criticized in the press for delays on a local construction project, he in turn could put undue pressure on those in charge who would have to take short cuts which could cause a collapse. Peoples' lives are changed over press reports, jobs lost (fairly or unfairly), and so on. Such is the power of the press. When a reporter or photographer picks up the tools of their trade and wields them under the constitutionally protected "free press" First Amendment, those people should have skills and training to wield that power.

Reporters and photographers as they are thrown into the freelance world, are going to have no choice but to follow common business practices and adhere to standards as simple as "income must exceed expense" or they will not be in journalism very long. The businesses that employ staffers are collapsing all around the country, because those at the top have no idea how to properly monetize their content in the "it should all be free online" mentality. As such, some remedial business school learning for the executives is in order, I'd think.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.


Roddy Hamish said...

John Harrington,

as a professional photographer and president of the WHNPA, your silence on the Corbis/Usher/ Sotomayor case is borderline criminal.
Maybe its professional jealousy, maybe its pure blindness, either way, it is irresponsible of you.

John Harrington said...

Mr "Hamish" -

It would be appreciated that you not attempt to hijack a comment thread with non-germaine topics. To suggest that my non-commentary on Chris' case is "borderline criminal" is simply ludicrous. I am not aware of a single time, ever in the history of journalism, where someone has not reported on something, and been subject to criminal proceedings.

Suffice to say, I am aware of the case, and I am friends with Chris and never have been jealous of his work. On the contrary, I have held his work in admiration as amazing work.

If, in fact, you are Mr. Hamish, and not a pseudonym, please feel free to call me and we can discuss it personally. I am of the opinion that you are someone else masquerading under the nom-de-plum Roddy Hamish.

-- John

AdvRdr said...

Hey John, as the father of three young children; you know that when a toddler like Shoddy Roddy throws a temper tantrum, it's best to ignore them until they stop their whining and crying.

Mead Norton said...

Hi John-

As a graduate from Brooks, I would agree that any aspiring photographer/journalist should get the proper training, but I would say from my own experience that a lot of these schools don't spend enough time in their programs focusing on the business side of the industry.

Mead Norton

Wedding Photographer Italy said...

B model and B school are really important. When I studied as photographer, here in Italy, they teach me all about arts, photography and nothing about business. Well the years back in school were for me fundamental I learn a lot about tech, art and ethic but I really needed a little bit about business strategy, law and economic. So I believe that is better to add to J - School some business lessons. Business alone without heart passion and love for what are you doing is simply something very far from journalism. The business side of my work as a photographer say "weddings in a photjournalism style" but I learned it in school and in streets...

virginia executive photographer said...

John - please stop colluding immediately with Mr. Chris Usher at the Pho noodle shop. I think it's disgrace that you haven't gotten to reporting his case yet opting instead to subversively purchase him a #12 (rib-eye) whilst obviously looking the other way as Corbis/Sotomayr slips him the chicken.
Pull your finger out man! There'll be bean sprouts and Chili Sauce everywhere if this gets out!

"Roddy" - do Chris a favour and buy one of his books instead or better yet come to a Pho - all welcome.

Dwight Cendrowski said...

I've run a corporate and editorial photography business since 1978, and my major in college was Journalism. I now include both photography and writing for company magazines in my services. And I've taught a business class on photography at a local community college.

Our industry is most definitely in a changing, chaotic time. I'll be teaching a portrait class this fall at that same community college, and I will most definitely be talking also about the business of photography. Every professional photographer can tell you stories about bidding for a job against someone quoting a quarter or less. I happen to fall on the side of business acumen being the key to success. Of course you need to know your craft inside and out. But that's only the start. Lot's of mediocre photographers out there doing very well, while brilliant shooters can't make money.

And of course groups like ASMP and APA are crucial for gaining that business knowledge.

And concerning the written Journalism profession, I also happen to think you're better off getting a deep and thorough education in a wide range of subjects, from economics and sociology to healthcare and science. Yes, learn to write a lead and know your grammar, but wide interests and knowledge will carry you much further. Like with photography, we need both skills in our craft AND a more rigorous knowledge of the wider world.

Dwight Cendrowski

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