Despite it all, people will still want to be journalists

“My hope is that journalism educators meet this demand by doing what we wish more journalists did within their newsrooms.”

Lately, when I begin the first class of a new semester, I ask my students a question no one felt compelled to ask me when I studied journalism in the 2000s: Has anyone discouraged you from pursuing a career in journalism?

The answers, unsurprisingly, are consistently “yes.” Students describe parents and friends asking why they’d choose to work in a profession where pay is low, public distrust is high, and stability is elusive. Strangers have asked them why they want to be part of “fake news” or have encouraged them to be “one of the good ones.” And, in general, as soon as they tell someone they’re pursuing a career in journalism, they get a list of grievances about the news in response. (I’ve found this to be true for journalism scholars as well.)

But despite the perpetual discouragement and all the serious issues motivating it, universities across the country are seeing consistent — or even increasing — enrollment in their journalism curricula. The University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media has seen enrollment increase about 70% over the past decade, according to the school’s senior associate dean for undergraduate studies. Journalism programs at Emerson College, Syracuse University, Arizona State University, and the University of Maryland have also seen enrollment increases in recent years. In my department at the University of Utah, our journalism sequence has experienced year-over-year growth since 2016.

So, my prediction: People will continue to pursue careers in journalism despite (or maybe even because of) its ongoing challenges. Many will begin those pursuits in university classrooms.

My hope is that journalism educators meet this demand by doing what we wish more journalists did within their newsrooms: Reflecting honestly and openly about how we’ve been doing our jobs and making meaningful changes to better serve the public.

As Rafael Lorente, the associate dean for academic affairs at University of Maryland’s journalism school, wrote recently: “We have an obligation to build a journalism education model that keeps us grounded in core values while looking to a future we cannot predict.”

To start, we need to reevaluate how we teach the building blocks of news writing and reporting, especially when it comes to representation and inclusivity. Thanks to a growing chorus of journalism scholars and practitioners, the news industry is finally acknowledging the negative impact of the pursuit of “objectivity” on women journalists and journalists of color, who are more often accused of being “biased” or “compromised” than their white, male counterparts. Some are already working to bring this discussion into the classroom so that students can learn both how objectivity has traditionally been pursued as well as emerging alternatives to it as journalism’s overarching value. For example, Anita Varma, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin, has embraced a persuasive alternative to objectivity and has published resources to help other journalism educators present this alternative to students.

Journalism educators also need to prepare students for the lack of diversity and representation they will find when they start working in newsrooms, as well as the resistance they will encounter within those newsrooms when it comes to changing those circumstances (or even acknowledging them). To do this, journalism programs need to do more to center discussions surrounding representation throughout their curricula. This year, the University of Utah, the University of Colorado, and the University of Wisconsin are all hiring scholars for positions focused on the intersection of journalism and race. This list is by no means comprehensive — there are others thoughtfully pursuing better ways of teaching the basics of journalism. Hopefully, more will follow.

Journalism schools also need to begin teaching students to think more deliberately about the relationship they hope to have with their audiences — specifically, who those audiences include, who they leave out, and how much agency those audiences should have when it comes to how their stories are told. Last year, Northwestern University professor Stephanie Edgerly and I examined course syllabi from leading journalism schools throughout the United States and found that few of them included much, if any, focus on news audiences. Considering the industry’s increasing embrace of audience-supported revenue models and expansion of audience-focused jobs, journalism schools should devote more resources to ensuring that aspiring journalists are thinking about the people they hope to reach from the very start.

Some programs are already doing this: The University of Oregon’s journalism school has been teaching engaged and solutions journalism courses for years and even has a center dedicated to fostering “more community-engaged and community-driven journalism.” At Temple University, professors have involved students in the creation of hyperlocal, community-centered journalism projects, where students learn solutions journalism and engaged journalism practices by collaborating with community members on solutions-oriented reporting and outreach. CUNY’s journalism school offers a master’s degree in engagement journalism that aspires to teach students “how to build less transactional and more trusting relationships with the people we serve and producing tangible impact in communities.” Arizona State’s journalism school recently launched a “Community Engagement Reporting” course, where students are taught to hold “listening sessions” in hopes that they will learn how to “build better relationships with community groups and their members.” And University of Wisconsin professor Sue Robinson has been working with seven universities to create guidelines and modules intended to help university journalism professors teach students how to host community conversations.

Finally, journalism schools need to do more to offer students not only the skills required to produce the news, but also the knowledge they will need to navigate this profession during such an uncertain period. That means teaching students about labor unions, so they can make informed decisions when it comes time to consider joining one. It means teaching students about the risks and challenges of social media so they understand the perpetually looming threat of online abuse and are also best prepared to consider how what they put online will be evaluated by potential employers. And it means teaching students how best to protect themselves from burnout and other mental health issues that seem endemic to professions where idealism is so easily exploited.

The news industry is a tough place to work right now. We’re lucky that so many people still want to. And if we can meet the challenge of preparing them for what they will find when they begin their careers, we’ll all be better off.

Jacob L. Nelson is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Utah.

Lately, when I begin the first class of a new semester, I ask my students a question no one felt compelled to ask me when I studied journalism in the 2000s: Has anyone discouraged you from pursuing a career in journalism?

The answers, unsurprisingly, are consistently “yes.” Students describe parents and friends asking why they’d choose to work in a profession where pay is low, public distrust is high, and stability is elusive. Strangers have asked them why they want to be part of “fake news” or have encouraged them to be “one of the good ones.” And, in general, as soon as they tell someone they’re pursuing a career in journalism, they get a list of grievances about the news in response. (I’ve found this to be true for journalism scholars as well.)

But despite the perpetual discouragement and all the serious issues motivating it, universities across the country are seeing consistent — or even increasing — enrollment in their journalism curricula. The University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media has seen enrollment increase about 70% over the past decade, according to the school’s senior associate dean for undergraduate studies. Journalism programs at Emerson College, Syracuse University, Arizona State University, and the University of Maryland have also seen enrollment increases in recent years. In my department at the University of Utah, our journalism sequence has experienced year-over-year growth since 2016.

So, my prediction: People will continue to pursue careers in journalism despite (or maybe even because of) its ongoing challenges. Many will begin those pursuits in university classrooms.

My hope is that journalism educators meet this demand by doing what we wish more journalists did within their newsrooms: Reflecting honestly and openly about how we’ve been doing our jobs and making meaningful changes to better serve the public.

As Rafael Lorente, the associate dean for academic affairs at University of Maryland’s journalism school, wrote recently: “We have an obligation to build a journalism education model that keeps us grounded in core values while looking to a future we cannot predict.”

To start, we need to reevaluate how we teach the building blocks of news writing and reporting, especially when it comes to representation and inclusivity. Thanks to a growing chorus of journalism scholars and practitioners, the news industry is finally acknowledging the negative impact of the pursuit of “objectivity” on women journalists and journalists of color, who are more often accused of being “biased” or “compromised” than their white, male counterparts. Some are already working to bring this discussion into the classroom so that students can learn both how objectivity has traditionally been pursued as well as emerging alternatives to it as journalism’s overarching value. For example, Anita Varma, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin, has embraced a persuasive alternative to objectivity and has published resources to help other journalism educators present this alternative to students.

Journalism educators also need to prepare students for the lack of diversity and representation they will find when they start working in newsrooms, as well as the resistance they will encounter within those newsrooms when it comes to changing those circumstances (or even acknowledging them). To do this, journalism programs need to do more to center discussions surrounding representation throughout their curricula. This year, the University of Utah, the University of Colorado, and the University of Wisconsin are all hiring scholars for positions focused on the intersection of journalism and race. This list is by no means comprehensive — there are others thoughtfully pursuing better ways of teaching the basics of journalism. Hopefully, more will follow.

Journalism schools also need to begin teaching students to think more deliberately about the relationship they hope to have with their audiences — specifically, who those audiences include, who they leave out, and how much agency those audiences should have when it comes to how their stories are told. Last year, Northwestern University professor Stephanie Edgerly and I examined course syllabi from leading journalism schools throughout the United States and found that few of them included much, if any, focus on news audiences. Considering the industry’s increasing embrace of audience-supported revenue models and expansion of audience-focused jobs, journalism schools should devote more resources to ensuring that aspiring journalists are thinking about the people they hope to reach from the very start.

Some programs are already doing this: The University of Oregon’s journalism school has been teaching engaged and solutions journalism courses for years and even has a center dedicated to fostering “more community-engaged and community-driven journalism.” At Temple University, professors have involved students in the creation of hyperlocal, community-centered journalism projects, where students learn solutions journalism and engaged journalism practices by collaborating with community members on solutions-oriented reporting and outreach. CUNY’s journalism school offers a master’s degree in engagement journalism that aspires to teach students “how to build less transactional and more trusting relationships with the people we serve and producing tangible impact in communities.” Arizona State’s journalism school recently launched a “Community Engagement Reporting” course, where students are taught to hold “listening sessions” in hopes that they will learn how to “build better relationships with community groups and their members.” And University of Wisconsin professor Sue Robinson has been working with seven universities to create guidelines and modules intended to help university journalism professors teach students how to host community conversations.

Finally, journalism schools need to do more to offer students not only the skills required to produce the news, but also the knowledge they will need to navigate this profession during such an uncertain period. That means teaching students about labor unions, so they can make informed decisions when it comes time to consider joining one. It means teaching students about the risks and challenges of social media so they understand the perpetually looming threat of online abuse and are also best prepared to consider how what they put online will be evaluated by potential employers. And it means teaching students how best to protect themselves from burnout and other mental health issues that seem endemic to professions where idealism is so easily exploited.

The news industry is a tough place to work right now. We’re lucky that so many people still want to. And if we can meet the challenge of preparing them for what they will find when they begin their careers, we’ll all be better off.

Jacob L. Nelson is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Utah.

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Stefanie Murray   The year U.S. media stops screwing around and becomes pro-democracy

Ben Werdmuller   The internet is up for grabs again

Dana Lacey   Tech will screw publishers over

Anthony Nadler   Confronting media gerrymandering

Anita Varma   Journalism prioritizes the basic need for survival

Kathy Lu   We need emotionally agile newsroom leaders

Sam Guzik   AI will start fact-checking. We may not like the results.

A.J. Bauer   Covering the right wrong

Amethyst J. Davis   The slight of the great contraction

Alexandra Borchardt   The year of the climate journalism strategy

Alex Sujong Laughlin   Credit where it’s due

Mario García   More newsrooms go mobile-first

Christina Shih   Shared values move from nice-to-haves to essentials

Julia Beizer   News fatigue shows us a clear path forward

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Jim Friedlich   Local journalism steps up to the challenge of civic coverage

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Wilson Liévano   Diaspora journalism takes the next step

Josh Schwartz   The AI spammers are coming

Nicholas Jackson   There will be launches — and we’ll keep doing the work

Mael Vallejo   More threats to press freedom across the Americas

Sarah Marshall   A web channel strategy won’t be enough

Juleyka Lantigua   Newsrooms recognize women of color as the canaries in the coal mine

Kirstin McCudden   We’ll codify protection of journalism and newsgathering

Jody Brannon   We’ll embrace policy remedies

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Sue Schardt   Toward a new poetics of journalism

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Richard Tofel   The press might get better at vetting presidential candidates

Taylor Lorenz   The “creator economy” will be astroturfed

Cindy Royal   Yes, journalists should learn to code, but…

Francesco Zaffarano   There is no end of “social media”

Larry Ryckman   We’ll work together with our competitors

S. Mitra Kalita   “Everything sucks. Good luck to you.”

Andrew Donohue   We’ll find out whether journalism can, indeed, save democracy

Susan Chira   Equipping local journalism

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Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau   More of the same

Rodney Gibbs   Recalibrating how we work apart

Simon Galperin   Philanthropy stops investing in corporate media

Snigdha Sur   Newsrooms get nimble in a recession

Masuma Ahuja   Journalism starts working for and with its communities

Walter Frick   Journalists wake up to the power of prediction markets

Brian Moritz   Rebuilding the news bundle

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Sam Gregory   Synthetic media forces us to understand how media gets made

Jessica Maddox   Journalists keep getting manipulated by internet culture

Julia Angwin   Democracies will get serious about saving journalism

Cassandra Etienne   Local news fellowships will help fight newsroom inequities

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Kerri Hoffman   Podcasting goes local

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Michael Schudson   Journalism gets more and more difficult

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Danielle K. Brown and Kathleen Searles   DEI efforts must consider mental health and online abuse

Matt Rasnic   More newsroom workers turn to organized labor

Rachel Glickhouse   Humanizing newsrooms will be a badge of honor

An Xiao Mina   Journalism in a time of permacrisis

Gordon Crovitz   The year advertisers stop funding misinformation

J. Siguru Wahutu   American journalism reckons with its colonialist tendencies

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-check (no, really!)

Barbara Raab   More journalism funders will take more risks

Eric Holthaus   As social media fragments, marginalized voices gain more power

Ståle Grut   Your newsroom experiences a Midjourney-gate, too

Sarah Stonbely   Growth in public funding for news and information at the state and local levels

Jarrad Henderson   Video editing will help people understand the media they consume

Sue Cross   Thinking and acting collectively to save the news

Mary Walter-Brown and Tristan Loper   Mission-driven metrics become our North Star

Joni Deutsch   Podcast collaboration — not competition — breeds excellence

David Skok   Renewed interest in human-powered reporting

Jennifer Choi and Jonathan Jackson   Funders finally bet on next-generation news entrepreneurs

Ariel Zirulnick   Journalism doubles down on user needs

Peter Sterne   AI enters the newsroom

Surya Mattu   Data journalists learn from photojournalists

Gina Chua   The traditional story structure gets deconstructed

Christoph Mergerson   The rot at the core of the news business

Ryan Gantz   “I’m sorry, but I’m a large language model”

Jaden Amos   TikTok personality journalists continue to rise

Emily Nonko   Incarcerated reporters get more bylines

Mar Cabra   The inevitable mental health revolution

Elite Truong   In platform collapse, an opportunity for community

Ryan Kellett   Airline-like loyalty programs try to tie down news readers

Jonas Kaiser   Rejecting the “free speech” frame

Anika Anand   Independent news businesses lead the way on healthy work cultures

Janelle Salanga   Journalists work from a place of harm reduction

Basile Simon   Towards supporting criminal accountability

Michael W. Wagner   The backlash against pro-democracy reporting is coming

Janet Haven   ChatGPT and the future of trust 

Esther Kezia Thorpe   Subscription pressures force product innovation

Johannes Klingebiel   The innovation team, R.I.P.

Dannagal G. Young   Stop rewarding elite performances of identity threat

Jenna Weiss-Berman   The economic downturn benefits the podcasting industry. (No, really!)

Eric Thurm   Journalists think of themselves as workers

Emma Carew Grovum   The year to resist forgetting about diversity

Anna Nirmala   News organizations get new structures

Khushbu Shah   Global reporting will suffer

Lisa Heyamoto   The independent news industry gets a roadmap to sustainability

John Davidow   A year of intergenerational learning

Delano Massey   The industry shakes its imposter syndrome

Paul Cheung   More news organizations will realize they are in the business of impact, not eyeballs

Alan Henry   A reckoning with why trust in news is so low

Tre'vell Anderson   Continued culpability in anti-trans campaigns

Daniel Trielli   Trust in news will continue to fall. Just look at Brazil.

Eric Nuzum   A focus on people instead of power

Amy Schmitz Weiss   Journalism education faces a crossroads

Sarah Alvarez   Dream bigger or lose out

Alex Perry   New paths to transparency without Twitter

Tamar Charney   Flux is the new stability

Peter Bale   Rising costs force more digital innovation

Doris Truong   Workers demand to be paid what the job is worth

Errin Haines   Journalists on the campaign trail mend trust with the public

Joshua P. Darr   Local to live, wire to wither

Kaitlyn Wells   We’ll prioritize media literacy for children

Cari Nazeer and Emily Goligoski   News organizations step up their support for caregivers

Ayala Panievsky   It’s time for PR for journalism

Dominic-Madori Davis   Everyone finally realizes the need for diverse voices in tech reporting

Martina Efeyini   Talk to Gen Z. They’re the experts of Gen Z.

Felicitas Carrique and Becca Aaronson   News product goes from trend to standard

Molly de Aguiar and Mandy Van Deven   Narrative change trend brings new money to journalism

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Mariana Moura Santos   A woman who speaks is a woman who changes the world

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Jakob Moll   Journalism startups will think beyond English

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Joanne McNeil   Facebook and the media kiss and make up

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Hillary Frey   Death to the labor-intensive memo for prospective hires

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Upasna Gautam   Technology that performs at the speed of news

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Brian Stelter   Finding new ways to reach news avoiders

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