OLD Media Moves

What's wrong with business journalism education?

December 6, 2005

At the American Press Institute seminar I am attending today, along with a dozen business editors from publications throughout North America, I heard some feedback about what our universities and colleges are doing wrong when it comes to teaching students about business journalism.

–A business editor from New Jersey stated that he spoke to a journalism class at a university recently, and there were no students in the class with an interest in business journalism. “Nobody wanted to go work at Bloomberg,” he said.

–Another business editor wondered why so few universities offer a course in business journalism as a mandatory class.

–A third said he had difficulty finding students interested in interning on the business desk.

I agree with all of these statements, but let me provide some perspective.

Yes, the bulk of students in schools of journalism and mass communication currently are majoring in public relations and advertising. At UNC, where I teach, those two majors make up a majority of majors. But enrollment in news-editorial is actually up in the past year. To borrow from “Field of Dreams,” which was on AMC last night, “If you build it, they will come.” My experience is that schools who are teaching business journalism are seeing a growing interest in the field. It’s happened at all three places I have taught a business reporting course.

Some universities are hesitant to add business journalism classes to the curriculum because they are required by the J-School accrediting council to teach certain courses. To make business journalism a mandatory course would butt heads with other requirements. I agree that business reporting or business journalism should be taught as a required course because it teaches students a whole lot more about life, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Part of the problem with internships on business desks is that the programs that teach business reporting often don’t know what papers will take an intern on a business desk. I had 11 interns on business desks last summer, but I could have filled more business desk slots if I had known about any other openings.

Because so few journalism students have wanted to go into business reporting in the past, many newspapers don’t even discuss the possibility any more. Let the educators know that you want an intern, and you’ll likely get one.

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