If You Want To Come To The J-School

Elevators in the J-school are slow and lumbering, but most times they’re still faster than climbing six floors by stairs. That’s where most of my classes are.

A few days ago, someone was already riding the elevator when I got in. She was on the phone, and I was genuinely surprised that there could possibly be any signal in that grungy-gray metal box. Well the ride went uninterrupted for two floors before this other person burst into tears with the unknown phantom on the line.

The first few words were clearly audible: “I’m just so tired…”

I quickly looked the other way, into the hundreds of honey-combed pores that lined the elevator walls. Five seconds later and I quickly stepped out.

* * *

Apart from the notorious RW1, who would’ve thought that a little Friday class could earn as many unpopular votes. Critical Issues in Journalism is a mandatory class for all students, taught primarily by Professor Klatell. This class is where the line between journalist and philosopher becomes hazy, with savory topics such as loyalty, responsibility and conscience on the menu so far.

A good many of us shuffled in our seats with stifled moans when Professor Klatell pulled out the complete register of student names. You can see where this is going. Random names were called and those individuals had to participate in a debate with Professor Klatell, described aptly by one of those students as potentially a “whole Ph.D. thesis.”

I don’t have concrete numbers, but I’d bet my place in the school that more than half the students in the room didn’t like the prospect of being singled out. That said, it may be a perverse form of training to tell us that all professional journalists’ voices will be heard by a large group of people.

In my mind, this school’s preoccupation with scare tactics is not admirable. Horror stories about demeaning tutors may or may not be true, but gossip exists for a reason. Smoke and fire. Now a little Friday class wants to be a big bully too. What is more important, the means or the result? It depends, right? Well that’s how open-ended those debates were.

What I really want to find out in May 2009 is if all these debates will even be remotely useful to us.

If the end result isn’t achieved, then something must be said about the effectiveness of the means.

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Filed under Columbia University, Journalism

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