Town Square

On Deadline blog: Dwight Bentel presented a contrast to Stanford journalism/communications education

Original post made by Jay Thorwaldson, editor emeritus, on May 25, 2012

The passing of Dwight Bentel in mid-May at 103 marks the passage of an expansionist era in the education of future journalists -- one with direct parallels, and differences, between San Jose State College (now University) and Stanford University.

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Posted by Where-Have-All-The-Dinosaurs-Gone?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2012 at 7:55 am

> Despite differing emphases, honing the ability
> to think analytically is the common gift that both
> Bentel and Bush bequeathed to the thousands of
> journalists who passed through the programs they created.

If only that were true. It is very difficult to see a lot of what one might call analytic thinking in much of the so-called media these days. Far too many journalists are wallowing in a sea of thinly-veiled politics, unable at times to differentiate fact from fiction, substituting opinion as news, when that opinion should be ensconced on the OpEd page.

The world has taken note of the sorry state of “journalism” (or perhaps newspapers), and voted with its feet over the past four decades--

Welcome to a dying industry, journalism grads:
Web Link

Even Warren Buffett Can't Save the Dying Newspaper Industry:
Web Link

The reasons for print-media’s decline are fairly well understood—the emergence of more competitive, flexible, channels for the distribution of information, such as radio, TV, and now the Internet. Newspapers have not been able to keep up. They know what they know, but don’t seem too interested in innovation. This is particularly true because their whole business model needs to be rethought—which seems like suicide to those responsible for the industry, rather than an evolutionary change necessary to function in the age of digital media.

Journalism, more often than not, is an afterthought to most people’s need for a newspaper. Particularly when journalism (whatever that really is) morphs into advocating for political causes that are more unpopular with the general population, than not.

Most journalist seem poorly educated, when it comes to mastery of the tools of running a modern society. Few seem to understand mathematics, or statistics, or demonstrate basic computer literacy. And then when it comes to the classics—how many of today’s journalists took Latin, have any depth in history, or classic literature? How many can even name the countries of the world? Anyone who has talked someone claiming to be a journalist often finds himself/herself talking to a blank wall. Too often, today’s journalists seem to traffic only in sound-bytes, and are not remotely interested in an explanation that involves more than a couple of minutes of narrative. More often than not—journalists in today’s world come into a situation with a pre-conceived set of notions, and are only interested in pushing those views on the world.

Of course, journalism is only one aspect of the business of print media. People generally don’t buy journalism—they buy the paper for news, sports and ads. Advertising in a digital world is just not as simple as in the print world. And then there is the issue of how many media outlets can the digital world support?

Journalists as analytic thinkers? Maybe--but then again, maybe not. It’s hard to see that attribute in much of today’s journalism.

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Posted by Jay Thorwaldson
editor emeritus
on May 27, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Jay Thorwaldson is a registered user.

Dinosaur-hunter: Seems to me that the ability to think analytically and write clearly would be valuable in any profession or in any mode of communication, whether in print, on a website, in blogs or anonymous comments. ;-)> -jay
P.S. I took a couple years of Latin, two years of Humanities (heavy reading from Ancient Egypt through early 20th Century) and have read extensively in history, including the entire set of History of Civilization by Will and Ariel Durant. Still not sure how any of that helps write a sharp news lead or cohesive, tight story, though.