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Now the Details

Media, ethics, and journalism. What works. What doesn't.

Jeffrey Dvorkin

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Future Without Journalism?

I was asked to represent the Ryerson University School of Journalism at an awards ceremony earlier this week. I hesitated to go (it was early on a Tuesday morning) but I was glad I did because it showed me how government money can be used properly.

The breakfast meeting brought together several hundred young men and women who had won something called the Canada Millenium Scholarship. It began in 2000 and will end next year. This federal government grant (supported by private donations)gives up to Cdn$25,000 (about US$22,000) scholarships to high school graduates across the country.

According to the website, the Canada Millenium Scholarship's goal are clear:

Its objectives are to improve access to post-secondary education for all Canadians, especially those facing economic or social barriers; to encourage a high level of student achievement and engagement in Canadian society; and to build a national alliance of organizations and individuals around a shared post-secondary agenda.

Since 2000, the Foundation has delivered more than half a million bursaries and scholarships worth more than $2.2 billion to students across Canada...

The Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation is a private, independent organization created by an act of Parliament in 1998. It encourages Canadian students to strive for excellence and pursue their post-secondary studies. The Foundation distributes $325 million in the form of bursaries and scholarships each year throughout Canada.

My role at this breakfast was to engage the young men and women (and their parents) at my table and to talk a bit about journalism as a career. All the graduates at my table were immigrants or children of immigrants - Albania, Colombia, India and China. There were a few so-called "Anglos" in the room, but they were indeed in the minority in this gathering. Not only did every scholarship winner have high marks, but they were also very involved as volunteers, working with autistic children, the elderly, community groups, and so on. When do these kids sleep?

I was glad to be there, but my pitch for journalism as a career fell on polite, but deaf ears. These kids are going into engineering, science research, biology. One young woman hadn't decided on a career path yet, so she was going to enroll in the Arts & Science program at her local university.

They did not hold journalism in high regard, although they were too polite and well brought up to get into it. But if my table was any indication, they perceive journalism and journalists as irrelevant to their lives. "It's mostly about entertainment," said one. "I'm interested in what's going on in the world and I don't get that from newspapers or television," said another. "But I'm sure you are teaching your students how to do it properly," said one father.

I hope he's right.

But it's clear that these kids who are truly the best and the brightest are finding connections to community and to the world in other, non-journalistic ways.

I left the gathering optimistic about the future, but not quite so optimistic about my profession.

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