They say Twitter, Facebook and blogging have made journalism schools more out of date than Joe Paterno’s closet.
They say a journalism degree will soon be a collector's item -- like a "Donald Trump for President" button or the Sacramento Kings or a polar bear.
I believe it.
This past Friday, I was the commencement speaker for my own J-school alma mater, the University of Colorado, which will close June 30 as a school and reopen as a more digital-based, social-media-aware, mass-communication something ... Twollege, maybe?
Really bad idea. Closing journalism schools is the last thing we need.
True, this is a new age and all these "New Media Thumbtastic Textual Revolution Departments" will someday teach everybody how to deliver the news on people's contact lenses. I get that.
But no matter what the medium, this whole giant digital house of cards will fold if colleges stop producing well-trained, hard-nosed reporters who dig out good stuff, make sure it's true and then deliver it well.
Without good journalists delivering solid stories that check out, there'll be nothing for the world to tweet, Facebook, text, ping, blog, flog, poke, post, roast, friend, unfriend, wiki-leak, sneak peak, share, smoke signal or quilt.
Without good journalists, this whole whirring, spinning cyber-machinery we're all so addicted to stops colder than Rosie O'Donnell's lingerie drawer.
I saw this the other day:
The problem with the internet is you never know if what you're reading is true or not.
-- Abraham Lincoln
We need to know. We need information we can trust. We need actual trained professionals, not just people who declare, "I have a laptop. I have a Linksys. I'm a journalist!"
The legendary investor Warren Buffett once said, "The smarter the journalists are, the better off society is. ... People read the press to inform themselves -- and the better the teacher, the better the student body."
If we're left with only TMZ cameramen to inform us, we're going to have a society that's dumber than doorstops.
Imagine, for instance, if some of the great journalistic moments in American history came from social-media-based schools.
In 1924, the legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice would've texted: "Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction a ... FIELD FULL."
In 1963, Walter Cronkite would've posted on his Facebook page: “From Dallas, Texas, the flash -- apparently official. President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time. 2 o’clock Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago." Followed by a little tab you could click: "I Like This."
In 1969, Neil Armstrong could've tweeted: "That's one small step for man, Tweeples! Don't Hate! LMAO!" #PlacesYourButtWillNeverGo!
Anyway, that wasn't the problem of the Colorado graduates in caps and gowns in front of me Friday. They have the last stand-alone CU Journalism School degrees in history. They're on their way. But when they get out there, I begged them, pleeeeease:
Don't write for free! Doctors don't doctor for free. Professors don't profess for free. Writers shouldn't write for free. Have some pride! If you do it for free, they won't respect you in the morning. Or the writer who comes along after you.
Don't ever write, broadcast or blog the word "enjoy." It's done, used up, laying on the scrap heap of spineless, washed-out phrases along with "Have a nice day" and "It is what it is." I bought a power cord for my laptop one time and the cashier handed it to me in a bag with my receipt and said, "Enjoy." And I thought, "Pal, where do you think I'm sticking this power cord?"
And, most importantly ...
Don't take my job. I'm not done with it.