7) Journalism training, and jobs in journalism, should be much more accessible and inviting. The Danish School of Media and Journalism was established in 1962 as the official vocational school for journalists in Denmark. The curriculum, a four-year bachelor’s degree program, was a collaboration between media organizations and the journalist’s union. It soon became akin to a necessary accreditation program, with requirements in the field—like a medical school, if medical schools were free. Since 1999, the school no longer has a monopoly on journalism education in Denmark; masters’ programs have developed in other universities since. But the school’s legacy has set the standard for journalism training.
The school’s entrance exams were rigorous and wide in scope, and the program only admitted 250 students a year. It was a true meritocracy, in that students were not admitted because of their pedigree (because applications were anonymous, and did not include high school transcripts) nor because of their ability to pay (because the school was free). Kim Minke, director of the Danish Cultural Institute in the UK, describes the school’s history in a chapter of European Journalism Education (2009). “And finally the four-year programme would contain an eighteen-month trainee period in the middle of the programme, in which the students would work as paid interns in various media companies,” Minke writes. “These were the concessions made to the skeptics who feared that the real talent and a true understanding of ordinary people would not be appreciated in a formal educational system.”
One topic that just about every American journalist—employed or not—is sure to have a strong opinion about is the value of a formal journalistic education. It’s everybody’s favorite thing to argue about, after paywalls. But everyone can probably agree that starting out in the field of journalism can be prohibitively expensive. If you’re not paying tens of thousands of dollars a year for grad school to get the training and the access that might come with that degree, you’re paying your own way during an unpaid (or extremely low-paying) internship that increasingly seems to be a prerequisite for a “real” job.
The current system is discouragingly elitist. A challenging, inexpensive training program that evaluated students on talent rather than on family names or bank accounts would be in everyone’s best interest, especially the industry that would be hiring its graduates. Unfortunately, as long as the industry is itself in financial duress, it’s unlikely that this will materialize. But news organizations should, at the very least, enliven their newsrooms by considering job candidates with unconventional resumes and informal training.