"In almost every newspaper I've worked in, the most close-minded person I've ever come across is the 23-year-old recent grad."
Those are the words of Rob Curley, arguably the smartest guy working in journalism today. Rob's comments came last week during his keynote speech at the National College Media Convention hosted by College Media Advisers and the Associated Collegiate Press. (You can see a photo of Rob and listen to an audio clip of part of his remarks by clicking here.)
I was lucky enough to be at the convention and hear Rob in person. And I assure you, there's not a more passionate advocate for this profession.
I was there to co-host a session on resumes, portfolios and other tools for landing a job. (Longtime readers of this blog will guess correctly that I was invited because of my earlier comments on the subject.)
I met a lot of students at the convention. And I'm afraid I must say the next crop of entry-level journalists is about as close-minded as the present set. There were some exceptions, but they were few and far between. Most of the folks I met were similar to the "silo students" I've been complaining about for awhile now -- those inflexible seniors who become the close-minded 23-year olds in Rob's newsrooms.
And the root of this inflexibility seems to be the sort of nonsense that some of the older journalism teachers are feeding their students.
Among the disconcerting things I ran into at the convention:
1. A senior who said his journalism teachers told him he should never tell a prospective employer he knows how to shoot photos, because it means he'll never get a chance to write.
2. A student who said her adviser told her she should never, ever mention her college newspaper's Web site on her resume, because no magazine will hire someone who has written for the Web.
3. A student who said she was told by teachers that newspaper design was a booming field.
4. A slew of students who seemed unaware of the financial and circulation challenges the print media industry is facing.
5. At least a dozen students who said they want to be "writers" and that have zero interest in working on any Web-based product.
Rob and I aren't the only people to notice that a large percentage of the next group of journalists seem completely unprepared for journalism in 2007 and beyond. Just yesterday, Howard Owens mentioned the problem.
I have my doubts that journalism schools will be able to resolve this problem anytime soon. I fear that the industry is going to have to wait a few years until more of the older and out-of-touch professors retire.
Until then, we may all be better off recruiting from outside journalism departments -- looking at English, business and computer-science majors.
But I haven't given up completely. And I'll be sharing my opinions on journalism careers with another bunch of students in February when I'm the keynote speaker at the Southeast Journalism Conference in Oxford, Miss.
tags: journalism, b2b, media, trade press, magazines, newsletters, business media, journalism education