When not on the lookout for that fresh angle on a stale story, journalism students are bracing themselves for insults from people who are earning a living in the profession we’re hoping to break into. We don’t have to look very hard. Dodging reporters who want to know how our impressionable young psyches have been irreparably warped by the influence of a certain professor (see page 30 for our fresh angle on that story), we yell to each other: “Did you hear whatshisname on CBC this morning: He had the nerve to say journalism courses are a waste of time.” Some of the more sensitive in our group have even cried, “Hey, did you see that huge billboard towering over the Eaton Centre? It said all journalism students are pompous, overprivileged underachievers and you shouldn’t hire one to walk your dog.” We label those last ones paranoid, but we can’t dismiss them. After John Fraser’s famous rant, published in the Globe in October 1994—in which he lamented the demise of journalistic ethics, pined for the good ol’ days and professed to be able to smell a journalism grad from 100 miles away—journalism students generally, and those of us who produce the Review specifically, have had to be on the defensive. Who said, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t’ against you”? Maybe if I were an economics major, I’d know.
The insults couched as career advice (usually a variation on “no-one-likes-a-journalism-graduate-why-don’t-you-get-a-history-degree?”) are based on the assumption that we can’t possibly learn anything at J-school that we couldn’t’ get from another program or, better yet, the Hemingway pub-crawl school of life: Just Do It! One of the latest of these affronts came buried in Joey Slinger’s Toronto Star column last February. Slinger offered a $1,000 prize to any journalism student who could find a happy hobo-by-choice, explaining that J-school students need this incentive since “they don’t study anything that is any use to them.” A fine arts major might say, “My esteemed colleague, I beg to differ.” We say, “Do too, Joey!” Since many of our professors also freelance in the business and gainfully employed journalists routinely come to our classes as guest lecturers, I’ve often wondered if J-school bashers are insulting their colleagues for sharing their knowledge or students for wanting it. An English major might say, “I confess, it gives me pause.” We say, “Hi! Hello?”
Journalism school isn’t a contradiction of the Just Do It philosophy. We don’t sit around reading classics and saying, “Spectacular cadence! Would but that I could produce such a transitional phrase!” Putting out the Review is more of a learning experience than any wannabe-journalist in politics or history could ever hope for. In fact, many of those wannabes end up at Ryerson, degrees in hand, expressly for that purpose. Funny how they’re having more luck getting jobs once they graduate from here than they did before. A philosophy major might say, “After the fact, but not necessarily because of the fact.” We say, “Whatever.”
So, as always, we bring you the culmination of years of what John Fraser calls “a compendium of all the teaching tricks dished out ot journalism students.” When you find something that interest, angers or impresses you, rest assured, it had nothing to do with what we learned in journalism school.