By Austin M. Davis
Chris Hedges doesn’t think journalism schools are effective anymore – but it’s a message that may not fit the Canadian prairie context, according to some members of his audience.
The U.S.-based Pulitzer Prize-winner visited the University of Regina’s School of Journalism on Sept. 20 and answered questions from students who had packed into the school’s studio.
“The problem with journalism schools is that they are teaching to a model that doesn’t exist. There is no way to – as when I started out – earn a middle-class salary and be a journalist,” said Hedges, an author and columnist for truthdig.com
“The future of journalism is pretty bleak. I think journalism schools are not particularly honest about telling their students what the reality is.”
Most of the students’ questions were about his nearly 20 years as a war correspondent and the circumstances that led up to him quitting the New York Times.
Whenever the topic turned to the state of journalism, his responses blamed the large corporatization of the media for focusing on news as a form of entertainment.
“What’s happening is that most journalists are being thrust out of the middle class into the working class. That doesn’t mean that journalism won’t exist but it will exist on the margins. It will be very hard to make a living at it,” said Hedges.
According to Hedges, the decline of newspapers specifically will make it easier for courts, police and city officials to engage in unexamined corruption.
When asked for advice he would give to aspiring journalists, Hedges compared it to his wife who is a Julliard-trained actress who “makes no money.”
“Teaching is not rewarded, the arts are not rewarded, journalism is not rewarded. Those you almost have to do as hobbies,” Hedges said. “That’s the world that’s being created.”
Mitch Diamantopoulos, the School of Journalism’s Department Head, said that journalism’s current crisis that Hedges spoke of has ample potential for opportunity, especially in the prairies.
“Saskatchewan and Alberta are in kind of a bubble, a resource-led bubble, which means we have a lot of advertising revenues in the market. We have new publications in Regina. We have new morning shows in Regina. Employers are hiring,” said Diamantopoulos.
“The facts are kind of incontrovertible in terms of graduation rates and employment rates in this part of the country. I don’t pretend this is representative of North America. It’s not. This is a bubble.”
Third-year Journalism student Lauren Golosky was in the audience during Hedges’ bear-pit session with students. She said that the message was pretty depressing but it came from a reasonable perspective.
“My initial reaction (was that), well, it was discouraging and then I also thought about stuff he’s seen and been through, so it was understandable. I also just didn’t find some of his advice helpful because he already was an established journalist,” Golosky said.