Various Australian universities including the University of Canberra, University of Sydney, Brisbane’s Griffith University and Swinburne in Melbourne, offer studies in journalism.
Numbers of students undertaking such degrees are increasing apparently despite that newspaper sales, numbers of media outlets, journalist jobs and cadetships are decreasing; journalists are being made redundant and free information and news are available on the Internet.
Degrees in journalism teach students to undertake research; gather, harness and critically analyse information; interpret events and situations, and produce wide-ranging material for many audiences. Courses can encompass units in electronic and print journalism and many other disciplines covering the law, politics, economics, history, environment, sports, industrial relations and gender studies. Journalism courses often include scrutinising the media which is relevant of course given the role of the media in many aspects of society.
Questions arise however about the logic of undertaking journalism studies if jobs are not available for graduates. Print-media job losses are not being offset by digital opportunities it seems. In the United States, a recent in-depth study by University of Pennsylvania PhD student, Alex T Williams, showed that newspaper journalist numbers have declined sharply in the past decade but are not being replaced in the digital media. And, digital-media job numbers have reached a plateau.
Basing his assessments on various sources including the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics program, Alex Williams also noted the many negatives flowing from the increased pressures on working journalists having to do more with less, including that: the shorter articles being produced do not properly cover important issues; there is less ability for the media to interrogate and counter the claims of press releases and political spin; and political coverage and investigative reporting are decreasing, resulting in fewer significant stories being brought forward for public scrutiny.
In her 2013 publication, Stop Press, Rachel Buchanan criticised journalism educators for training young people for jobs that are not available in the media. However, the Director of the Centre for Advancing Journalism and Convenor of the Masters of Journalism course at Melbourne University, Margaret Simons, noted in The Drum in 2013 that while journalism graduates may not be working ‘in the large newsrooms’, they may be employed in jobs which did not exist five years ago, including with online publications serving specialist audiences and new media entrepreneurs. Some graduates manage media outlets’ social media, or work for regional and suburban media or as assistants to international freelance journalists.
If anything according to Ms Simons, the demand for communication skills will increase and should not be an added extra given that many organisations produce their own content, news stories, opinion pieces and submissions for publication on their websites and hence require their employees to have good journalistic skills
In a 2014 article in The Australian, University of Canberra academic, Professor Matthew Ricketson, made the point that university journalism students are able to research and write about the very issues and technologies which have led to the need for changes in the media industry’s longstanding business models. He concludes that busy newsrooms and journalists simply do not have the time to cover such matters.
Journalism lecturer and one-time editor at the Sydney Morning Herald, Peter Fray, notes that journalism graduates are often employed in the private sector. Graduates may be producing and disseminating news for not-for-profit organisations.
Higher-education analyst, Andrew Norton, has noted that many graduates are in management and professional positions. In Canberra, journalism graduates are employed in a wide variety of jobs and seniority levels, including in government, parliamentary and non-government offices.
Overall, the usefulness of a journalism degree can depend on a student’s background, experience and career aspirations. Significantly, while consumers increasingly use the Internet for information, they still want accurate, interesting and well-researched stories.