Saturday, April 08, 2006

Columbia Graduate School of Journalism

The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism road show rolled into San Francisco Friday night and once again hosted a soiree at the Carnelian Room on top of the Bank of America Building.

It was raining outside (what else is new) but the view through the floor to ceiling windows was still spectacular. As dusk fell, the lights came on and the Transamerica Pyramid stood out against the dark.

The annual get together is part alumni reunion/part recruitment for new students. And the tone of the evening definitely had an “I’ll Tell You Why It’s Still Important to be a Journalist,” ring.

James Stewart, the author of many best-selling business books, including last year’s Disney War, talked about how the role of journalists is to tell good stories. Listening to stories is a basic human instinct, one that will never lose its appeal. The journalism world may be changing, as newspaper readership drops and web reading grows, but that ultimately doesn’t matter, said Stewart. Today’s journalists must still know how to get good stories, but be prepared to deliver them on many different platforms – print, TV, blogs, website, and podcasts.

We live in a world where everyone talks and no one listens – and that is a journalist’s greatest weapon, said Stewart. Keep your mouth shut and allow others to tell their tales and you will find good narratives. Stewart then described the two years he spent talking and shadowing Michael Eisner, now the former chairman of Disney. (In part, because of how he came out in Stewart’s book)

Aspiring journalists apparently feel the lure of the narrative. When I went to Columbia in the mid 1980s, most students studied in the newspaper concentration. This year’s applicants (and there more than 1,000 for 200-odd spaces) were more interested in magazine journalism.

People in the journalism business are adaptable and many trained in old media have morphed into using new media. I spoke with a former classmate who told me he had had 20 bosses in 20 years. But he couldn’t be happier. He is now involved in a video-on-the-web start up and believes there is a huge future for watching film via the Internet.

Virtually every journalist I spoke to at the reception recognized that the media structure they grew up with was imploding, and they were picking their way through the land mines. One now teaches journalism, one just stopped working for a foundation and one was blogging. Those might not have been the careers they envisioned when they arrived at the Columbia School of Journalism, but they were fine careers nonetheless.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When I went to that reception last year, I thought it was grand fun, partly because the mood of the Carnelian Room is so classy.