Open Letter to J-School Class of 2005

Don’t worry, it’s not from me.

This essay by Greg Lindsay has been popping around the media blogosphere a little bit, and I think it’s time I throw down my reaction to it.

Of course, I’m not a graduate of J-School, I’m a graduate student in J-School, but what I am is a graduate of film school, and let me tell you, Mr. Lindsay – I’ve heard your schtick before.

Lindsay writes:

You thought you were buying a set of skills, credentials, and quality time with the placement office. And you did. But your professors also sold you a mindset, a worldview, an ideology—one in which newspapers are God’s work, bloggers are pagans, and your career trajectory is a long, steep, but ultimately meritocratic climb to a heavenly desk at The New York Times or 60 Minutes. Accepting any of this as gospel truth will almost certainly cause permanent damage to your budding careers.

Bitter much? Have something against Journalism Profs? It’s craft school, of course, and they are teaching the craft of journalism, the last time I checked, not How To Save The World 101. If you were anything close to aware of the issues J-Schools are actually dealing with right now, you’d notice that Profs and students are both blogging, that they’re writing articles about blogs and talking about them at conferences; J-Schoolers are aware that the world changes, Greg. The only ideology I see getting taught is “Get It Right.”


To have made it this far, you’ve had to inhale the usual bromides like “the reporter’s job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”—a noble sentiment that overlooks the fact that anyone who can spend $30,000 on j-school should be considered ‘comfortable.’

Ah, the always-noble attack on the people who can afford an education – wait a minute – I am enrolled in a state school, and have worked my ass off to get scholarships, grants, and loans which take care of most of what it costs. Can it be that the anti-elitist Lindsay only considers Columbia and Northwestern as real J-Schools?

Later, he goes to to stress how the connections a few gentlemen made at Harvard trumped the knowledge any journalism school would have given them. Hey Greg, what does Harvard cost?

On the positive side, Greg does point to Bourdieu’s On Television, although he hijacks Bourdieu into a discussion about office politics. Ladies and gentlemen, when was the last time ANY school taught you DIRECTLY about how to move up the social ladder of a business? Welcome to the real world, Mr. Lindsay, where we figure that one out for ourselves. No Professor I’ve taken a class with at any level (yes, even in Film School) wastes their time with the lesson on “How To Get What You Want Out Of Other People.” You learn that just by working with each other on newspapers, films, presentations, or through the class discussion. That experience comes independently of any lesson plan.

The most important thing Lindsay encourages J-School grads to do? Read Romenesko. I’ll second that.

For more reaction to Lindsay’s letter, check out the letters to the editor at Mediabistro.

Also: Alternet, Mark on Media, Maverick Writer, Gawker

Cue Disclaimer.

1 thought on “Open Letter to J-School Class of 2005”

  1. “with karate I’ll kick your ass, from here to tiananmen square! Oh yeah motherfucker, I’m gonna kick your fuckin’ derriere…”


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