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July 11, 2008
Newspaper find ready supply of cheap labor - J-school students!
How do journalism schools manage to keep training youngsters for an industry where employment is collapsing?
Over the last few decades, newspapers and wire services have fewer Americans as foreign correspondents. Many foreign bureaus have closed. Increasingly, media outlets have relied on American freelancers to report foreign news -- or they've hired from the local market in foreign countries.
As newspapers undertake mass layoffs, journalism professors can nevertheless be counted on to find a way to justify their jobs. Some have jumped on the "diversity" bandwagon, devising programs to help newspaper editors meet minority quotas. Now, many J-school have hatched another scheme to attract students -- high-priced courses teaching them how to be foreign correspondents.
And no matter that few if any jobs as full-time foreign correspondents exist anymore.
In a story that spills the beans on the newest J-school fad, the American Journalism Review has a story that starts out as a puff peace -- but then manages to slip in a few appropriate bits of cynicism. Referring to an international reporting program at the University of Maryland, it notes:
Its two-year-old program is one of a growing number of journalism school initiatives that send students abroad for an immersion course in what it's like to be a foreign correspondent. Of the more than 100 journalism and communications schools certified by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, at least 20 offer some type of international reporting trip, according to an informal AJR survey. They range in length from a week to two months and explore far-flung corners of almost every continent.
Unfortunately, such programs don't come cheap, or as AJR notes: "Students usually pay upwards of $1,000 per week, depending on airfare, for the experience."
And unfortunately, the training probably won't guarantee a glamorous job as a foreign correspondent, as AJR notes:
Although some of the students aspire to report abroad professionally, the trend comes at a time when foreign correspondent jobs are disappearing. Still, professors argue that teaching their students the skills for international reporting is more important than ever.
So, are their any benefits to such programs? Yes, cash-strapped newspapers now have a source of cheap labor -- or as AJR notes:
"Final projects take on many shapes, but often the trips result in a high-quality product published by mainstream newspapers or broadcast outlets."