The United States’ bleak economy and struggling newspaper industry have combined forces in recent months to give journalism schools across the country a surprising boost in applicants.
A recession-induced surge in journalism school applicants is the trend on many college campuses, indicating the skills journalism schools teach students remain indispensable regardless of the economic climate, said Greg Downey, director of the University of Wisconsin School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Downey said journalism and mass communication is an extremely popular major on campus, with over 200 students vying for 105 spots in the journalism school each semester.
“Our majors realize that the conceptual and real-world training in communication skills, technology, research and strategy that we offer can be applied widely to media jobs both new and old, for organizations both for-profit and non-profit, dealing with any pressing political, economic or social issue that you may imagine,” Downey said in an e-mail to The Badger Herald.
According to statistics released last month by Georgia University’s Grady College, overall undergraduate enrollment in journalism programs across the nation have been on the rise since 1993 when 128,367 students enrolled in journalism programs nationally. Enrollment reach-ed a high of 201,477 students last year — an increase of 57 percent from 1993.
Graduate enrollments have followed a similar pattern, but with a spike in enrollments beginning in 2006, according to the statistics.
Katy Culver, a UW journalism professor who teaches a variety of courses that utilize multimedia elements, said journalism is currently undergoing a transition, but she is optimistic about its future.
“There will always be a place for robust journalism in a democratic society,” Culver said.
The key is experimenting with new media tools to reinvent the way journalists communicate with their audience, Culver said.
Culver added students at UW share similar attitudes and recognize the importance of the cross-disciplinary skills the journalism school teaches.
“I think our students are smart to be saying that these are skills that apply across many different fields,” Culver said.
UW overhauled its journalism program in the fall of 2000, creating a “platform agnostic” program that incorporates multimedia elements into coursework, Culver said.
Video was used before YouTube caught on, Culver said, and websites, photographs, blogs and social media are now part of journalism courses beginning with the introductory “journalism boot camp” course, “Mass Communication Practices,.”
Despite the hopeful statistics at some of the nation’s leading journalism schools, the latest data indicates graduates still face a grim job outlook in the field of journalism. According to the Georgia study, 60 percent of the country’s recent journalism and mass communication graduates were fully employed in 2008, compared with 70 percent the year before.
Mitch Lubner, a UW junior majoring in communication arts who is currently applying to the journalism school, said he remains hopeful despite the statistics.
“I’m a little concerned about applying [to the journalism school], and the job market has crossed my mind definitely,” Lubner said, adding he currently works for a marketing firm and is confident he will find a job after graduation.