A good, short essay In Defense of a Liberal Arts Major by UGA Franklin College student (Women's Studies) Alex Laughlin:
I knew I wanted to be a journalist when I came to college, but I also knew I wanted to spend these years expanding my mind to the world. A major in journalism would teach me to write, which I already knew how to do, while a liberal arts major could force me to question my assumptions and beliefs. In women’s studies, I learned the importance of rhetoric, critical thinking and historical context, and I got to perfect those skills in 20-page analytical papers (which were terrible, but I’m glad I had to write them). I read authors that wouldn’t ordinarily get attention in the mainstream media and I learned the significance of cultural literacy. Most importantly, I learned how to approach the nation’s most sensitive issues in a tactful way.
My peers in the J-school are by no means ignorant to these issues, but they’re certainly less prepared as whole to engage in a dialogue about them. And just throwing this out there: if those in the media aren’t equipped with the vocabulary to engage in the most heated debates, how does that reflect the general public?
It's wholly equivocal what the right major or training is for a future journalist. Depends on the person and their talents, proclivities and curiosities. Networking is important, though surely not the only consideration. What is more certain, at least, is the breadth of knowledge indicative of the best journalists. You don't have to know everything; but you do need to be widely read, conversant in multiple languages (at least badly) and at home with complexity and contradiction. Do you learn all of that in J-School? Of course not. There's proably no one place to learn all of that, and this is more precisely the point. A liberal arts major equals access to the widest array of subjects - deep with history, inclusive with economcs and science, and cognizant of aesthetics. This breadth is critical, can't be overstated. That's how important journalism is - which you don't learn (only) in J-School.
Image: A comprehensive take on the inverted pyramid in journalism. (By Christopher Schwartz) Via Wikimedia Commons.