short takes

Glass Half Full

While journalism's job pool shrinks, j-school enrollments expand
October 25, 2007

The U.S. newspaper industry has suffered thousands of job losses since the turn of the century, creating a sense of fear and uncertainty about the future of newspapers. However, it seems the dark cloud hanging over journalism hasn’t turned students away from journalism school—at least not yet.

Since 2000, under-graduate and graduate enrollments in the nation’s more than four hundred journalism programs have been growing at a healthy rate, marking the longest stretch of sustained growth in the field over the past two decades, according to the Annual Survey of Journalism & Mass Communication Enrollments compiled by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

Although undergraduate enrollment growth has slowed to less than 1 percent over the last two years, strong gains earlier in the decade mean that annual enrollments increased by an average rate of nearly 4 percent; annual enrollment in graduate programs has increased by an average rate of 5 percent. Lee Becker, one of the survey’s authors, says that while the recent slowdown may have something to do with the gloomy prognosis for the newspaper business, it was also inevitable given the high rate of growth in years past and the inherent fickleness of enrollment numbers.

Furthermore, as Becker, a professor at Grady College who has surveyed journalism enrollment for nearly two decades, suggests, while the pool of traditional newspaper jobs may be shrinking, the broader journalism industry is experiencing an equal—if not greater—growth spurt; not only are traditional news outlets expanding to the Internet, but there is also a whole new crop of digital media jobs. “There is no evidence that students track the downsizing of the industry,” says Becker. “They see mass communication as a broader enterprise. Everyone can be a journalist.”

Jarrett Renshaw is a reporter and columnist at The Jersey Journal, Jersey City, NJ).