Let me start by disclosing some biases: Chikodi, Dave and I all went to the Columbia J-School and I taught there for a few years; and Chao is currently at NYU’s J-School. We each like where we went and both are very fine schools.
There are other fine schools of course. Northwestern has a great program. So too Berkeley and Arizona State. Annenberg is a great program and I know some fantastic professors at City University of New York. But instead of creating an exhaustive list for you, I’m going to turn the question around and ask: Why do you want to go to journalism school?
I ask because the program you’re looking for is found in your answer.
For example, do you want to be a reporter investigating the great issues of the day? If so, do you have a beat you’re already passionate about. Let’s say you do, and let’s say it has something to do with the environment. Have you thought about applying to an environmental science program instead?
I ask because having deep expertise in a complex subject is very attractive to news organizations. And deep subject matter expertise takes longer to teach than inverted pyramids and the other nuts and bolts of the journalist’s craft.
Or maybe graphics and all things visual are more your speed. If so, you might think of design school. Maybe you have a logical bent and computer science could jet you into journalism as you bring programming chops to the newsroom and create whole new ways of presenting information.
I write these things not to distract from the original question, but instead to suggest how many disciplines and knowledge spheres journalism includes, and how many paths one can take to “get into” journalism. I mean, it’s not like we need a license or anything.
We really are in a golden age of journalistic possibility. The business models around what we do are craptastic but the innovations taking place are unreal. Our disciplines are no longer print, radio, broadcast and however that may be transposed to the Web and mobile devices.
Instead, it’s all of the above, mixed, mashed, recreated and reimagined into new forms still unexplored.
If you are set on J-School, choose a school that’s actively pursuing cross disciplinary collaboration. I mention above that Chao’s at NYU. The program she’s in is called Studio 20 and it brings together journalists, programmers, filmmakers, entrepreneurs and others in order to understand what news storytelling is in our day and age.
Columbia is doing something of the same with the recent launch of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism.
And if and when you do apply, get accepted and head off to wherever you may go, make sure you let us know. We’d love to hear about your adventures. — Michael