HOME     |     INTRODUCTION     |     FORUM     |     ESSAYS     |     BACKGROUND

Les Gura, page 2

The fact is I found Columbia useful in many ways. More than anything else, my year at Columbia cinched in me the drive for perfection, the need to do things the best way, every time.

So what should a journalism school be teaching? How can it get graduates the degree in thinkology that they need to be the best of the best? Should Columbia's j school do things differently, perhaps require studies in other fields or courses in other schools to supplement the craft taught in the journalism school? Might two years of study for a graduate school be a good thing?

The benefits of a more well-rounded, broader education for master's level candidates, one that would perhaps provide better knowledge and understanding of the changing world cannot be dismissed. Nor can the contention that by its nature, journalism is a trade profession, one that requires an intense foundation of core knowledge, the type that's been taught so successfully at Columbia for decades and churned out such a variety of talent.

Those are the two main arguments being endlessly debated among educators, Columbia grads and all manner of journalists and media pundits. Having been through two journalism programs, and with six years experience of graduate and undergraduate adjunct teaching, I figure I'm as good on the credentials side as anyone to weigh in on the great Columbia debate.

"Great journalists are constantly re-thinking, re-reporting, re-writing before coming up with their final product. A great school can and should do this, too."

To me, the best we can do to train the next generation is provide them with the strongest foundation for becoming great thinkers. Columbia must focus on the craft, yes, but must find a way to instill that strong sense of critical thinking. If its leaders don't believe the job is getting done - and, clearly, President Bollinger has enough doubts to have created this great debate - why not take the time to re-invent? Great journalists are constantly re-thinking, re-reporting, re-writing before coming up with their final product. A great school can and should do this, too.

I'd propose a dual-mission school. Such a school would continue to offer a traditional one-year master's program, perhaps with broader training in newer technologies affecting journalism. It also could offer a more intense, two-year program that would involve cross-training with some other graduate programs at Columbia in business, law, medicine or elsewhere.

In the end, the lede to theColumbia story is that the nation's oldest and best journalism school is taking the time to study itself, with an eye toward change, before anointing its next leader.
What can possibly be wrong with that?

Les Gura, a journalism graduate from both NYU (bachelors) and Columbia (Master), has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. He is currently the metro editor of the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina. He was previously city editor of the Hartford Courant, and has taught journalism at two universities.

HOME     |     INTRODUCTION     |     FORUM     |     ESSAYS     |     BACKGROUND

© Copyright 2002 New York University