Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Stop the Presses

The Kansas Department of Education has effectively defunded public school journalism in order to focus on “high-demand, high-skill or high-wage” jobs.  This decision fails on all three counts.

So many newspapers and magazines have closed that journalists face a difficult job market.  However, they will always, by any calculation, have more opportunities than professional athletes in any sport (even counting NCAA "amateurs").  Yet if Kansas had defunded athletics to save money, the howls would drown out all other news.  High demand isn't a universal bar for public school programs.

Some rags like the Pflugerville Pflag are so pathetic they litter my driveway with "free" copies to boost their circulation, but most journalists are very skilled.  On this story alone, journalists sourced, wrote, and published three easy-to-find stories that I found in two minutes.  Their communication certainly outpaced the Kansas Department of Education.  Journalism is absolutely a high skill.

Unfortunately I can't defend journalism as earning high wages.  Although it is nearly impossible to offshore actual reporting, people are committed enough to the profession that salaries stay low.  Sound familiar?  Most people say it about teachers, and I assume schools are interested in producing more teachers.  Like demand, riches are not a requirement for public schools, unless everyone who works for them is a failure.

Beyond the Department's "reasoning," journalism is important!  It's easy to forget in our hyperpoliticized echo chambers that journalists find politically/economically significant misbehavior, report stories that help us integrate and contextualize information, and earn specific protection in the Bill of Rights.  The job market won't reward deep-digging investigators over expositional blowhards - schools are our best chance to keep that tradition alive.

While I appreciate Kansas' effort to keep Texas from being the single foremost anti-education state, I hope Kansans elect officials to reverse this decision before it takes effect in 2013.

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