What’s an old man’s opinion worth?

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By Hamida Ghafour

The buzz among journalism students these past two weeks is what their undergraduate journalism degrees are worth.

Practically nothing, it seems.

Frantic parents reading Robert Fulford’s article in this month’s Toronto Life ask if they are doing the right thing by dishing out $4,000 to send their kids to an institution which, in the words of Fulford, will actually put a “black mark on their record.”

Fulford’s long-winded article, which is more of an opinion piece, claims the most successful journalists in the country, such as Peter Mansbridge, Michael Enright and Michael Lewis didn’t go to journalism school.  (What an odd coincidence these three men — the bastion of an all male, white establishment are Fulford’s friends.  Odder still, is the fact that Peter Mansbridge only has a high school diploma.)

But the best way to become successful journalists, Fulford says, is to get a liberal arts degree then do post-graduate studies in journalism.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with this route, but how many students can afford to pay for six years of post-secondary education?

Besides, our instructors constantly hammer into our heads that those all important clippings and hands-on experience is what employers really look for.  So which is the truth?

Fulford, a permanent fixture on the Canadian journalism scene for decades, didn’t even go to university himself.  In fact, he dropped out of high school yet ended up as one of the most successful journalists in Canada.  Funny thing.

He was lucky enough to use his family connections, as a son of a Canadian Press reporter, to get himself a job in journalism.  Someone gave a kid with no education a break and hired him as a sports writer at the Globe and Mail.

Two things become clear after reading this article.

First is that anyone who wants to become successful can do so.  If two successful journalists can barely finish high school and still make it then someone with a piddle undergraduate journalism degree can do so too.

The second thing is that it’s the same old rhetoric from a snobbish journalist from another era who dismisses a younger generation as lightweights that will never become successful because we didn’t do it the way he told us to.

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