The Web Needs Journalism Programs, Not Sarah Lacy

April 9, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Online Marketing

It’s 2009. We’ve reached an era where poverty should not exist, where every child should go to bed with a full tummy and where Sarah Lacy should not be allowed to voice an opinion. Especially when she has no experience on the topic she’s talking about.

There’s been a lot of talk about journalists over the past week, mostly in regards to how they’ve gotten this Google thing totally wrong. And I completely agree with that stance. The big wigs of these newspapers are doing some pretty stupid stuff. And I didn’t have to say anything about that because our industry’s premier journalist, Danny Sullivan, said everything that needed to be said.

But then Sarah started talking. And now instead of making dinner, I had to come write this post as a result of the huge world of dumb she just unleashed.

In a post on TechCrunch, Sarah Lacy wants to know who in their right mind would enter journalism school today. Heck, she didn’t need a journalism degree. She took her “mediocre GPA” and fell into a great career. Did you know she’s written 1.5 books and is super famous AND well paid? If not, go read her article. Because she’ll tell you. Eight times. Though she’s never *actually* attended one, Sarah calls journalism schools “foot binding”, the degrees “stuffy”, the knowledge you learn insignificant and wants to know when anyone will ever need to use the inverted pyramid anyway. I want to know why Sarah Lacy is allowed to speak.

We need journalists. We need them in every industry and in every corner telling people what’s going on. That’s what missing from the Web. We need these programs to be soaring exactly as they are.

I graduated from journalism school in 2004, much later than Sarah Lacy rolled out of school with her fancy Liberal Arts degree. My program wasn’t stuffy. It was set with the city of Boston as the backdrop and saw me in classes about building real Web sites, writing content for the college’s news Web site, and learning how to use images and video to help tell a story. It was as much about learning to see the Web as our new medium as it was about learning the methodologies that are standard to journalism. And that was five years ago. I can only imagine what they’re doing now.

Why do we need journalists? Because the quality of writing on the Web is crap. Through my journalism degree I learned:

  • Where the real story is
  • How to report a story
  • How to get information out of people
  • The different types of sources and which ones you can trust
  • How to smell an ulterior motive
  • Ethics
  • Responsibility and accountability in my writing
  • To only report what could be proven
  • How to be a better writer

That was what I learned. And it’s why I can write about SEO when I don’t practice it for a living. Because I’m a journalist. I wasn’t ‘bound’ to a certain style of writing. You know why? Because I have a brain.

If you walk out of school as nothing more than a parrot of what you were told, then you’re an idiot and you would have turned out that way regardless. That means you don’t have your own mind, that you can’t think for yourself and that you’re not strong enough in your convictions.

I’m glad to see that the numbers of enrollments for journalism programs are soaring. Frankly, we need it. We need accountability to be brought back to the Web. With people making up stories, with rumors being posted as fact, with fluff pieces being paraded off as real news, a return to tried and true journalism would be a welcomed change. It’d be nice to go back to the era where the story was more important than the ego of the person telling it. The technology for how news is delivered may change, but the foundation you get for knowing how to tell a story and how to do it responsibly, are traits today’s media is sadly lacking. It’s what companies are lacking and why they can’t connect with customers.

I really believe that everything I learned in journalism school has brought me to this point. I may not have two book deals like Sarah Lacy, but I’ve created a reputation where you can trust what I say. You know that I am responsible with my words and that I will stand by what I write. I think it’s my journalism degree that sets me apart from the other bloggers in this space.

And frankly, responsibility is something Sarah could learn a thing or two about. Hailing that journalism programs are on their way out was a ludicrous and irresponsible statement to make. Journalism isn’t dying, even if all the papers fall off the planet. Journalists are not defined by their medium; they’re defined by their craft. Unfortunately for Sarah Lacy, she’s defined by just not being very smart and for that disastrous Mark Zuckerberg interview. Seems she could have used some journalism training then.

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