Why is J-school still popular?

The headlines are almost all gloomy. Layoffs, furloughs and budget cuts have decimated news organizations. Newspaper companies are filing for bankruptcy (the latest being the parent of the Chicago Sun-Times), or pulling the plug on print editions. TV stations are “doing more with less.” But journalism schools are seeing record numbers of applicants. What’s going on here?

According to a report in the Baltimore Sun, J-school deans believe what they teach is “highly valuable,” even if their graduates are likely to have trouble finding work at traditional news organizations.

I don’t know that there will be jobs. There will be careers,” said Charles Whitaker, a professor at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, which teaches more about the business side of media than in the past. “We’re telling students they need to be much more entrepreneurial about their careers.”

The concept of a journalism career “path” is definitely outmoded. Back in the day, young journalists expected to start in a small market and move up every few years.  Being “entrepreneurial” today could mean freelancing online or finding a job in another field.

Professors say they don’t expect students to get jobs at newspapers in the numbers they used to. But they say there are other jobs for people who can communicate and dig up information — with nonprofits, in government publications, in public relations.

But if you’ve always wanted to work in journalism, or if you always have, it can be difficult to recalibrate your job search. So here’s a little guidance on how to think about that: 10 reasons you should hire a journalist, by Poynter’s Jill Geisler.  It’s a terrific piece that frames what journalists bring to their jobs in terms any employer could understand, and it’s worth a read no matter where you are in your career.