The media bloodbath hasn’t made for happy days at Columbia Journalism School. When the Times recently announced that its new, hyperlocal blog experiment “The Local” would be assisted by journalism students not from Columbia but from the City University of New York, you could practically hear the collective gasp echoing in the hallowed halls uptown. CUNY? Since when does CUNY trump Columbia? Well, since digital journalism became the single ray of hope on an otherwise dark media horizon, and Columbia’s vaunted ability to train students as print reporters began to appear obsolete. And so the school is trying to change. Fast.
Beginning in August, Columbia will offer a revamped, digitally focused curriculum designed to make all students as capable of creating an interactive graphic as they are of pounding out 600 words on a community-board meeting. The force behind the change is former WSJ.com managing editor Bill Grueskin, the school’s new dean of academic affairs.
Not everyone at the school is going without a cuss-wielding fight.
But the push for modernization has also raised the ire of some professors, particularly those closely tied to Columbia’s crown jewel, RW1. “Fuck new media,” the coordinator of the RW1 program, Ari Goldman, said to his RW1 students on their first day of class, according to one student. Goldman, a former Times reporter and sixteen-year veteran RW1 professor, described new-media training as “playing with toys,” according to another student, and characterized the digital movement as “an experimentation in gadgetry.”