Good programs exist beyond the Ivy Leagues

03/14/2019

By Duke Staff

Entering the “real world” and trying to find worthwhile, stable employment is a feat that every college student will have to grapple with at the end of their academic journey. This is especially stressful in the competitive field of journalism, where jobs are scarce as it is, let alone internship opportunities.

It becomes all the more stressful when you realize you may not even be considered for an opportunity based on where you go to school (which, at times, is out of one’s control entirely).

Last week, the New York Times director of Newsroom Fellowships and Internships, Theodore Kim, tweeted out a list of universities that he believes yield the best candidates. At the outset, this doesn’t sound like a big deal, until you get to the schools he lists — nearly all hyper elite, extremely expensive or Ivy League institutions, some of which don’t even have undergraduate journalism programs.

“I talk to many students entering journalism. Here is one person’s super unscientific opinion on which U.S. schools churn out the most consistently productive candidates. Note that there are many great schools/students beyond these. But these jump out to me…” Kim said in the tweet before listing Columbia, Northwestern, UC Berkeley and Yale as the best, with schools like Harvard, Duke and Stanford listed as “first-tier honorable mentions.”

This public ranking system immediately set journalism Twitter ablaze with criticism from journalism professors and students at schools that were not listed, or from professional journalists aiming to assure j-school students that this wasn’t (or shouldn’t be) how the real world of professional journalism works.

Jackie Kucinich, the Washington Bureau Chief for the Daily Beast, quoted the tweet and commented, “Dear future journalists – ignore this nonsense. If you are relentless, a good listener, curious and work hard no one will care where you went to school. I mean, really.”

Though Kim later apologized for his initial tweet, saying that it was not his intention to sound “elitist and narrow,” his rankings reflect a widespread set of beliefs throughout the journalism world that in order to be successful in the field, your degree should be Ivy. Students from lesser known journalism schools already feel as if getting an internship with the New York Times (a dream opportunity for anyone who wants to be a print reporter) is nearly impossible; a public ranking system from their top recruiter just makes it all the more discouraging and out of reach.

Journalism school has always been and should always be about showing what you know, rather than where you go. Where your transcripts come from should not matter if you have demonstrated the passion and talent for breaking news and seeking the truth. Continuing to make the argument that Ivy League schools churn out better journalists is untrue and unfair, not only to the students left out by this list, but to the professors that teach them.

As many of us are journalism students here at Duquesne ourselves, we all feel prepared by and are thankful for the professors we have had the privilege to learn from in the Media Department, and based on the many angry Twitter rants in the replies to Kim’s tweet, journalism students across the country feel the same way about their universities and professors too. Widening the pool of students does not degrade the prestige of the publication, rather offers a larger amount of perspectives and experiences that potential interns or new hires bring to the table.

In an age where the media environment is constantly evolving, it is time to retire the elitist dimension that places even more obstacles in front of budding reporters. We need to start operating on a level playing field. The only choice we should be judged on when being considered for an internship is what we decided to do with our education, not where we received it.

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