Pippa, Lara Logan and Journalism

Well, I enjoyed the weekend. I managed to get in two long runs as I look ahead to running this Sunday the half marathon in Pittsburgh. And I’m convinced that spring will be here in Northeast Ohio in another month or so. Yesterday provided a preview. So what’s this have to do with Pippa, Lara Logan and journalism?

When I run I noodle about what I’m going to write. I’ve done that for decades. The time on the concrete — spent totally alone these days — allows me to concentrate and many times even outline on my mind’s computer a blog post, article and so on. And I chuckled yesterday about the weird nature of blogging, especially when you are doing it for no apparent career-enhancing, commercial, political or monetary reason. Note to self: Don’t tell my wife this. She’ll think I’m wasting my time.

Many days I’ll get up and either before or immediately after a run in the early a.m. try to write and post something with at least a modest amount of substance and insight on topics that I believe are important: education, jobs, the economy, civility and so on. Hey, isn’t that the role of a pajama-clad citizen journalist — and journalism in general?


What I do know is that when I opine about Pippa’s underwear — or lack thereof — the number of readers spike to the point that my fingers start to sweat. Gee. I might actually be attracting an audience. Then reality returns when I get back to education, jobs, the economy, civility an so on.

Anyway, if that in any way reflects the nature of journalism these days — and what readers and viewers expect of journalists — are journalism degrees useless?

Here’s Alex Alvarez in Mediate, commenting on a story in The Daily Beast that ranks the 20 most useless degrees. And the one that heads the list: journalism.

Getting into a good university, as anyone will tell you, is hard work. Harder still is mustering up the confidence that your (often all too pricey) education will be put to good use, so that one does not find oneself spending an entire semester reading The Canterbury Tales in its original middle English (True. Effing. Story.) for nothing. It’s good to know ahead of time, then, that your degree has some sort of worth, that it will eventually lead to a well-paying job rife with opportunities for advancement. Which is exactly why I will dissuade my hypothetical children from majoring in journalism, and will instead force themgently urge them to consider a more potentially lucrative career path, like as becoming a Kardashian.

Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Payscale (a salary comparison database of sorts), The Daily Beast ranked the 20 most useless degrees. Journalism comes in at number 1, just narrowly beating out “underwater basketweaving” and “fluffer.” The site paid special attention to factors such as start and mid-career salary levels for the profession most associated with said degree (“writing brochure copy for a travel agency in suburban New Jersey”), expected change in job opportunities within a decade, and the expected percentage change in available jobs within a decade.

Well, I have two degrees in journalism. And I always figured it to be a good way to get a liberal arts education — while still developing a skill that might allow you to ask questions other than: “Dude, you want fries with that?”

And maybe The Daily Beast does have it right. Journalism degrees in this age of Twitter, Facebook, smart phones and so on may be useless.

And maybe journalist is the wrong descriptor now for those people who aren’t just sitting around in their pajamas, but who are willing to put time and effort into gathering information, checking the facts and trying to get it correct, and then conveying the stories to readers and viewers in a variety of media.

Lara Logan talked recently with 60 minutes and other news outlets including the NYT about her being sexually assaulted by a mob in Egypt while reporting about the wave that swept Mubarak from office in the early days of the Arab Spring.

And Bill Keller had an interesting and informative article in the NYT mag yesterday about the dangers facing combat photographers.

I don’t know whether Lara Logan or the combat photographers mentioned in Keller’s article have journalism degrees.

But I do know that without them — and thousands of others like them — we sure wouldn’t have much of a clue as to what is going on in the USA, let along around the world.

OK. For me, it’s back to Pippa.

Alert the search engines.

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