Monday, January 02, 2006

Another adjunct weighs in on the credentials of journo profs

Good story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Excerpt:

Recently I mentioned to a couple of friends who have forged distinguished journalistic careers that, in my two most recent teaching positions, I have been replaced by a 25-year-old woman with no professional journalism experience and a 24-year-old man with a similar lack of experience. Each is primarily responsible for the journalism program at her and his educational institution.

A Ph.D. from the least rigorous of academic institutions -- including online -- trumps not only my master's degree in communication but a combined 28 years of experience in journalism and public relations. Though I have a withdrawal-in-good-standing card from the Newspaper Guild, I do not have a doctorate.
And this is a large part of what is wrong with academia right now. People who have only studied journalism--and earned those multiple letters after their names--are prized over those who have done it and are actually expert at it. This does not serve students or media. It does reward the professional student and his or her employers who likewise are good at academia but lousy at the professions for which they're supposed to be prepping their students. When the department I worked in replaced practical writing and media history classes with more studies of communications theory, I knew they were doomed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That story attests to something that I, as a journalism major, am learning the hard way: If you want to go into journalism, don't assume you should major in it in college.

Good journalists, I've learned, are good primarily because they know something -- business, theatre, medicine, politics, whatever -- and because they write well. Generally speaking, a J degree alone will not give you both of those. (In my case, it's giving me neither. Thank goodness for the English department.) I'm more than halfway through mine, and it feels like simply jumping through hoops more often than not.

Sadly, we shouldn't be surprised about these people with lots of education and no experience becoming J professors. They've learned the same lesson: All that paper didn't get them a job in the field. So they became professors. (Granted, teaching is great in its own right.) And as their students jump through more hoops -- i.e., sitting through classes taught by people who don't have much practical knowledge to offer -- the cycle continues.

As one of my professors put it, "When all else fails, go to grad school."

12:41 PM  
Blogger War Bride said...

Thank you, anonymous poster, for confirming what I tell everyone who asks me why I'm not a journalism major. I can't remember who told me to "know something," but at least I have a second opinion that agrees!

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reminds me of a man I worked with from Madrid, whose wife had a friend who taught high school Spanish. He said that this teacher had a couple of problems: she couldn't speak Spanish and couldn't understand Spanish when it was spoken to her. He had previously taught at Berlitz, English to Spanish speakers and Spanish to English speakers, but could not get a job teaching high school Spanish because he did not have requisite education courses.

9:54 PM  
Blogger Koru's Daughter said...

I made the mistake of working in an advertising agency when I was working on my PhD in advertising. Now that I am in academia, I am preparing to leave. I cannot take the Byzantine bureaucracy, the useless meetings and the lack of action.

I can't believe I always need all these level of authorization (for example, I had to ask permission of my department head and two deans to see a colleague’s syllabus for a similar course in a different department), often from people who know nothing about my field (The Human Subjects Committee has no communication faculty on it - why do art professors and physics professors have the authority to edit my mass communication surveys?).

I am going back to the real world where the objectives are clear. Do everything you legally can to sell the product.

At the university, I am told to please the students, impress their parents, prepare the kids for work in an ad agency (trust me, if I worked them that hard, they would be VERY UNHAPPY – plus they would have to learn math and writing), advise and publish. I can't please all the people all the time.

One more comment... how odd that the work a professor does day-to-day is not the major criteria judged for promotion. Who wrote these rules? Lewis Carroll?

12:36 PM  
Blogger Doug & Dara said...

In my undergraduate program, most of the J profs had real-world experience. In fact, we were short on PhDs. An MA and experience (a former managing editor of a large daily was our chair and the news reporting prof was an AP bureau chief) was all that was needed to teach. Thinking that's the way it was every place, after 12 years of working in PR, I decided to get my MA so I could teach, even if it was part-time/adjunct.

After a year and a half of grad school and one semester of teaching an introductory PR class, I'm realizing that my MA won't be enough if I ever want to teach on a permanent basis. It has to be a PhD, but I don't think I want to go that route. At the AEJMC convention I met a PhD candidate who has to take an internship to get experience. I truly feel that by the time you are working on a PhD, you should already have it.

It's a shame, too. My students really liked my class and felt that I was able to provide more real world experience than other professors. When research is more important than experience, it's the students, and the prospective employers, who suffer.

5:26 PM  
Anonymous sarah m said...

I'm glad to be able to say that all of my J professors at North Texas had plenty of real world experience, and from a variety of fields and disciplines. Anecdotes from the field added to our respect for these teachers, along with adding color to their lectures. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way, PhD or not.

Food for thought: hiring these academia-only profs might end up being a bad business decision for institutions. To the students who really care, the lack of field experience in a prof is a major source of irritation. A few semesters after my introductory PR course, the PR department hired a lecturer whose sum total of real world PR experience was from working with her local church. While I (thankfully) never had her for a course, I can tell you from PRSSA gossip that the younger students did not respect her the way we did the other professors. They were unhappy at paying for courses under this teacher when they knew there were other lecturers available with more outside experience, and many refused to sign up for her courses.

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The same is true in business schools -- professors of management who have never managed anything

9:46 AM  
Blogger Michael Stiber said...

It seems to me that the role of experience versus (though that's probably not the best way to put it) education in hiring and promotion varies widely from institution to institution and field to field. In many places, simply put, faculty are not hired to teach, but to do research, and a PhD is considered the necessary qualification for this. In other places, the PhD may be an arbitrary requirement, or merely shorthand for filtering out applicants who aren't considered qualified (or just an excuse).

I would argue that, if anything, academia is less arbitrary and less bureaucratic than the corporate world. Nobody would get a laugh from "Dilbert" if that weren't the case. Try to get a job at a company through the filter of Human Resources folks who don't even know how the fields they're recruiting for are abbreviated, let alone what the person would do when hired. Ask yourself if management places higher priority on shareholder return or their own personal return (and whether either is the most important thing for the company or society).

Koru's Daughter wrote, "One more comment... how odd that the work a professor does day-to-day is not the major criteria judged for promotion. Who wrote these rules? Lewis Carroll?"

Can you elaborate on this? Most faculty I know are evaluated on teaching, research, and service, and that's what they spend most of their time doing.

5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm an accountant at a private university, therefore I respond to a lot of surveys in a professional capacity. A popular question is the percentage of instructors who have a terminal degree. Who cares if the Ph.D. can teach? That's not on the survey.

You thought public schools teaching to the standardized test was bad? Watch universities manage to the U.S. News and World Report rankings.

I'm not kidding.

-I'm accounting as fast as I can

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