I wish every student who wants to work in digital media was a journalism major. Maybe I’m biased, but the basic rules of journalism are critical to anyone who’s going to be a digital media pro: spell names correctly, demand factual accuracy and verify your sources, and don’t plagiarize — this means you, bloggers! Those principles haven’t changed, but the distribution methods and technologies are evolving faster than ever. Journalism isn’t about how to write an article for a newspaper that’s nearly extinct. It’s about how to tell a relevant, balanced and accurate story. That’s a timeless idea, regardless of the medium.
Expertise in digital media, of course, evolves literally by the day. What’s true of today’s technology may not be true tomorrow. Facebook, Twitter, Google and friends change the rules and capabilities daily, all while constantly raising the stakes. It’s not practical to expect universities to keep their technology curriculum current without instructors who are actively living and breathing this stuff. Students are likely to learn more than they’d ever absorb in the confines of the classroom by interning with a start-up or tech company, or by simply digging in and immersing themselves on their own time.
Journalism school used to be the prerequisite for having the power to (mis)inform the masses. The advent of social media certainly decentralized the creation and distribution of information, but that democratization of influence comes at a heavy price. Forget the pen; the smartphone is now mightier than the sword, especially where it pertains to self-inflicted wounds. Companies and brands must be vigilant and selective when deciding who will brandish their digital media assets. A journalism degree, not to mention common sense, would be a logical baseline requirement.