Should colleges still teach ‘print’ journalism?

With the Detroit shock playing out on Twitter and various blogs, one question I haven’t seen is whether college journalism programs should still concentrate on print journalism. And further, should there still be a college newspaper?

Since cutting the delivery days for a metro newspaper is a cost-reducing move that many other newspapers will likely follow in 2009, the focus of a newspaper’s journalism will be primarily digital. And this time, it won’t just be talk.

So, if you are training tomorrow’s journalists, why bother with your own print edition? While I haven’t seen a formal content analysis, my impression is that college newspapers have evolved about as much as their grown-up siblings (not much). Given the amount of time and energy it takes to put out a printed publication on a regular basis, journalism programs could benefit by focusing their students’ energies toward innovations in online journalism, instead of putting a paper out.

As Mark Potts suggested, this burning of the boats in Detroit is the only strategy for true transformation.

The Detroit move is radical, to be sure. It may or may not be enough to save the papers there, as Mutter further examines today. But it simply reflects reality. And if it does drive readers from print to online, then that’s a good thing, because online is where the future is. The sooner the newspaper industry truly understands that–and begins paying truly serious attention to promoting online and working hard to find innovative sources of revenue online–the sooner the transition to the inevitable future will take place. Sorry, print junkies. That’s just reality. Clinging to an obsolete notion of the printed newspaper’s role in information delivery is fantasy.

For college newspapers, it would be a lot less risky financially than a mainstream daily. The risk would be primarily in readership when students can’t take the crossword puzzle to class. But forcing the students journalists to compete for their classmates’ time and attention in the digital ecosystem (vs. Facebook, etc.) would be better preparation for the fragmented professional world they will find themselves in anyway.

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