For College Students, Newspapers Still Matter

college students still interested in newspapers, journalism
Breaking News: “Fifth Ticket Fraud.”

That pivotal moment when Charlie Bucket learns that one more Golden Ticket remains in the children’s masterpiece “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” revealed itself in what form?

A newspaper headline, of course. That was 1971. Nearly 40 years ago, back when people read newspapers.

But even today, when the prevailing wisdom suggests that “nobody reads newspapers anymore,” newspapers, the kind you pick up and hold, still mean something.

In the 2010 blockbuster film “Iron Man 2,” what does Mickey Rourke’s character Ivan Vanko glare at while plotting Iron Man’s demise?

A wall full of eye-catching, sensational, big-type newspaper headlines.

When filmmakers want to make a serious point in movies, they don’t turn to the desktop computer or the smartphone. Not yet anyway.

At a time when newspaper circulation nationwide is dropping, and newspaper companies are struggling to turn a profit, the belief that the newspaper itself carries credibility is alive and going strong.

Maybe that’s one reason why young people and college students still want to be become newspaper reporters.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, enrollment in Columbia University’s master’s program jumped 44 percent, to 1,181, last fall. The number of those specializing in investigative journalism at the university spiked to 121 from 54 the year prior.

Educators see the same trend elsewhere.

Applications to master’s programs were up between 24 percent and 30 percent and Stanford University, University of Maryland at College Park and the University of North Carolina, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

At undergraduate schools, enrollment is way up — by 35 percent from just a decade ago, according to Chronicle of Higher Education.

The surge in applications comes as newspaper companies are shedding jobs at the fastest pace in its history.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the newspaper industry dropped from 767,000 jobs in 1998 to 619,000 jobs at the end of 2008. The Department of Labor projects another 120,000 newspaper layoffs over the next decade.

Newspaperlayoffs.com, an online job tracker, estimates that in 2010, newspaper companies eliminated 1,911 jobs.

By 2018, the number of newspaper employees is expected to hover at right around 500,000, according to the Labor Department.

At least one explanation for the paradox is that graduate schools seem to be catering their curriculum to the digital age.

New media may be sinking newspapers, but it turns out that it may also be its rebirth.

Many of the students entering journalism programs are increasingly receiving training in multimedia such as how to shoot video and social media such as Facebook and You Tube.

Schools such as UC Berkeley and Columbia offer week-long multimedia boot camps for new students.

Looking out over the next decade, when newspapers hire again, the people with the skills in reporting, writing and multimedia will have the upper hand.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2016, entry-level positions for newspapers reporters will increase by two percent.

In the future, newspapers, the kind you can hold, will likely work in tandem with newspaper Web sites. And that’s likely what is driving the interest in going into journalism.

Newspapers, at least under the old business model, may be dying, but it is also a time for reincarnation. Colleges and universities have traditionally been bastions for creativity, exploration and freedom of expression.

With that frame of mind, it might make sense that, of course, journalism schools are flooded.

The new generation of gatekeepers, will be forced to save the industry.

And much is in their favor.

Even though fewer people are reading the printed newspaper, more people than ever are reading the work of journalists. According to Nielsen Online, unique visitors to the top 10 newspapers in the country for the in the month of December 2009 rose to 40.1 million, up by 16 percent from the year prior.

That’s good news college students and for an industry in transition.

Newspapers still matter. Just ask Hollywood. Just ask America’s college students.

Just ask Charlie Bucket and Iron Man.


For a full perspective on the state of newspapers, both online and in print, go to: http://www.stateofthemedia.org/2010/online_nielsen.php

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2 comments for “For College Students, Newspapers Still Matter

  1. dave d. bitterman
    July 14, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    What’s this blithe tripe? In your effort to paint a pretty picture of a dying trade, you fail to note that bloated journalism schools can only result in inflated numbers of unemployed reporters or underpaid hack bloggers. What’s the pay rate these day for Web news articles? $50 for 500 words?

  2. July 14, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    World’s changing, Bitterman. PS — if you know someone who will pay $50 for 500 words, PM me. I’ll send my clips.

    (Scurries off to look up “blithe tripe”. Damned you, self-important “seasoned journalist” and your $0.50 words!)

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