Columbia’s new dual- degree program disappoints

This morning, Poynter’s Ask the Recruiter column posted a Q&A with Bill Grueskin, dean of academic affairs and professor of professional practice in the Columbia J-school, and Henning Schulzrinne, a professor in Columbia’s Computer Science Department, regarding a new dual degree Columbia is offering in journalism and computer science.

After reading the interview, I am incredibly let down. As someone who is extremely interested in digital media but doesn’t have a strong background in computer science, aka no bachelor’s degree in the subject, I thought this degree would help me bridge that gap. But wait a second:

I suspect that, at least initially, more of our applicants will be those with technological skills who are eager to apply their ability to the media world.

–Grueskin on who is the ideal candidate for the school’s new dual-degree in journalism and computer science program.

and

Candidates should have a background roughly equivalent to a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or Information Science, or some other engineering or science degree.

Schulzrinne, in the same interview.

In order to be a part of this program, you basically need a bachelor’s in computer science or a similar field. That narrows down who can apply, big time. The last time I checked, most journalists aren’t exactly math or science experts. Hello, that’s why we write. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t interested in the field.

A bit of background: A few months ago, Columbia University announced it was creating a new dual-degree program between the Columbia J-School and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. The program would teach students “the fundamentals of reporting and writing while developing a working background in computer science and software design.” But unfortunately, it sounds like the program is really for programmers who are interested in journalism, not the other way around.

We already understand that journalists should have gotten on the tech bandwagon ages ago but why aren’t j-schools, like Columbia, creating new programs to truly help current journalists, not computer scientists who don’t want to work at Microsoft? More courses should be offered at a reasonable price on the basics of computer science/developing geared to help communicators.

Most of the communication schools/j-schools I’ve looked at only incorporate digital media into their already existing print classes. Some might have a small digital media concentration but we need more than this. Columbia had an excellent opportunity to achieve that here but they didn’t take it.

I’m going to peruse the Poynter story now, to see what the comments have been saying. I wonder if anyone else shares my frustration.

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Filed under Education, From the blogosphere, J-schools, Online news, Technology

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