Atlanta’s Emory University recently decided to close several academic programs. This wasn’t particularly big news for academics (colleges open and close programs all the time) but one part of this was particularly troublesome for journalists.

According to an article by Laura Diamond in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Emory will phase out the journalism program, department of visual arts, division of educational studies and department of physical education. Students enrolled in these programs will be able to complete their degrees and tenured faculty will move to other departments.

Eliminate the journalism program! Writers were appalled. And then one journalist said it was probably fine. Well, sort of. As Bill Cotterell explained at FlaglerLive:

I may be alone among my ink-stained ilk in thinking this is no big deal. It’s not good news, certainly, especially for faculty and staff. But it’s not bad news, either. Nothing against Emory, and nothing against the nearly 160 students who went to Atlanta to study news. It’s just that news judgment, reporting and editing don’t need to be taught in college.

This is probably true, but it’s a bizarre explanation for eliminating an academic department. People didn’t even need to finish high school in order to be reporters 100 years ago, but that doesn’t mean the study is useless.

People don’t need to major in business to run company well either, and (expensive) business schools abound. There are, in fact, very few professions where one really needs to major in something directly in order to succeed at job in the field.

It’s not as if the quality of journalism is going to fall through the floor in the Atlanta area as a result of this decision, of course, but students will likely suffer.

The trouble with Cotterell’s argument (people who want to be journalists can learn on the job) is that recent college graduates are rather more likely to get jobs if they can show they were committed early and they’ve got some clips.

It means merely that the few publications actually hiring new journalists simply won’t hire as many Emory graduates. That’s no big deal—most colleges don’t have journalism programs at all—but let’s at least acknowledge what’s going on here, and where the institution is placing its priorities.

Incidentally, Emory will continue to offer its programs in such you-can-learn-it-on-the-job fields as Analytic Consulting, Community Building and Social Change, Marketing, and Real Estate. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer