As Trump rips media, journalism schools see a surge in admissions
ROXANNE Ready plunged into autumn classes at the University of Maryland with the enthusiasm typical of a graduate student who wants to switch careers. She also has a bit of extra motivation.
The 32-year-old is seeking a master’s degree in journalism at a time when the president of the United States is launching fierce and sustained attacks on news reporters and major media outlets. She said she finds it “pretty disturbing” when President DonaldTrump disparages journalists and calls their work “fake news.”
“That sort of triggers a little bit of stubbornness in me, wanting to prove it’s not true,” Ready said. She said she pays zealous attention to precision, accuracy and ethics. “It makes me want to do my job that much better.”
The Trump era, overflowing with news, and the emergence of new ways to tell stories appear to be giving a jolt to journalism schools that in recent years struggled to cope with industry contractions. Students such as Ready are more fired up than ever about learning the tools of newsgathering, educators say. And at some prominent schools, there’s evidence of growing demand for journalism degrees as applications and enrollment rebound and investigative reporting classes fill up. At the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism,
an estimated 130 freshmen are entering the journalism college this autumn, up 50 per cent compared with the previous year. The incoming master’s class of 26 students is also bigger than the year before.
“Every time (Trump) calls journalists the ‘enemy of the people,’ or says something about ‘fake news,’ or gets a crowd at a rally to jeer at the White House press corps,” said Lucy Dalglish, dean of the Merrill College, more students decide “they’re going to major in journalism.”
Educators point out that journalism students come from all political points of view - Republican, Democratic, independent. “Some are forming who they are,” said Tricia Petty, an assistant dean at West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media. “They don’t yet know where they lean.”
What animates many of the college’s 323 journalism students, Petty said, is “a calling to tell the story of ‘their people and community’ through ‘their lens’ instead of having it told by someone else.”
No national data are yet available on the number of incoming journalism students in 2018. But there are signs of rising interest in the field.
At Northwestern University, undergraduate applications to the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications rose 24 per cent in the last admission cycle. The interim dean, Charles Whitaker, said it’s too soon to know whether that increase is more than a “momentary blip.” But he said it is clear that some journalism students are “agitated and activated by what they hear from the White House.”
Lorraine Branham, dean of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, said she sees more students signing up for investigative and political reporting classes that in recent years were underenrolled or even canceled for lack of interest.
“The president might be having a positive impact on us,” she said. She drew a comparison to the wave of students from an earlier generation inspired by reporters who chronicled the scandal that drove President Richard M. Nixon from office.
“In some ways, it’s almost like a Watergate moment,” Branham said.
At Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the incoming classes of undergraduate and master’s students are up 11 per cent compared with the previous year. Christopher Callahan, dean of the school, said its freshman class of 279 is the largest in 10 years.
Trump is almost certainly not the only factor. New journalism students are drawn to the reporting and storytelling power of social media and other technological developments, Callahan said. They want to report on communities that are often overlooked, such as American Indians in the Southwest. They are inspired by reporting on the #MeToo movement that has shed light on long-hidden sexual misconduct.
“There’s a real passion for public service,” Callahan said. “Granted, I’m biased. But there aren’t a heck of a lot of better ways to serve the public than through what we do.”
To bolster their work, Arizona State and the University of Maryland will receive $3 million each over the next three years from the Scripps Howard Foundation to establish centers for investigative journalism for graduate students. The gifts were announced in August.
Journalism education has faced challenges in recent years as newsrooms have shrunk or restructured in response to the digital
revolution. – Washington Post.
Journalism students work in the News Bubbl Bubble at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism.