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What is J-School?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2017
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A j-school or journalism school is a department or school within a college or university which offers training to people who want to be journalists. Historically, journalists learned on the job, starting out in low positions in the newsroom and gradually working their ways into the ranks of the journalists on the paper. Today, many attend j-school first, using their education as a way to get in the door at a newspaper and start work as a journalist, rather than needing to work a variety of lower positions in the newspaper's facility before being allowed to write articles.

Some schools just have a journalism department, while colleges and universities with larger student bodies may have an entirely separate school for journalism, much like colleges have separate medical schools, law schools, and other professional schools for their students. In these cases, students must apply specifically into the j-school, rather than being allowed to select a journalism major at some point during their college career. In both cases, students will need to take a set series of classes in order to obtain a degree in journalism, and they may need to complete portfolios and other projects as a precondition for graduation.

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J-schools offer bachelor's, master's, and PhD's to their students, depending on the level a student wants to pursue. Journalists with doctoral degrees from reputable institutions like the Columbia J-School can often work for some of the most prestigious newspapers and media outlets in the world, while people with bachelor's degrees from journalism departments at lesser known institutions may have more limited career options.

In a j-school, students can study print and broadcast media, developing skills such as writing, film making, photography, and web design so that they can get stories out effectively. Students also learn about journalistic ethics, how to develop stories, and how to work with sources. They are usually given numerous opportunities to pursue stories while in school, and many attempt to access internships which will allow them real world work experience with newspapers, magazines, television stations, and other media outlets.

Attending j-school can get expensive, and there is some controversy about how valuable journalism schools really are. Hard-liners who worked their way through the ranks in the traditional style argue that their experiences made them better journalists, and that they are part of a long and established tradition in the journalistic community. Supporters of j-schools suggest that they provide invaluable education, training, and opportunities, and that students who graduate from such schools are better prepared for modern journalism.

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