The Corner

Culture

Dumbing Down

Why should journalists know anything about economics or history? That’s the question the journalism department at UNC–Chapel Hill couldn’t answer, and so it has eliminated these basic requirements, as Jay Schalin of the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy explains. He points to a comment from one of the school’s deans: “No one really knew why we were requiring HIST 128 or why we were specifically requiring ECON 101.”

Here’s what I said, when Schalin asked for a comment:

Young journalists need to have a solid grounding in economics and American history. That’s one of the reasons why journalism is such a tricky major: Students often don’t learn what they need to know. You won’t hear a lot of professional journalists who hire young people complaining about how their cub reporters are over-informed about economics and history. It’s exactly the opposite.

At Hillsdale College, where I run the Dow Journalism Program, our students go through a rigorous core curriculum and major in a traditional academic discipline. Journalism is a minor. We believe that exposure to the economists, historians, and scientists on our campus is excellent training for careers in journalism — not an annoying distraction that keeps students from taking courses on “Media and Society” or “Communications Theory.”

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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