There are very few careers available where simply getting a formal education specific to the industry will land you a job. Unless the job requires a specific postgraduate degree to be legally qualified (doctor, lawyer, etc.), chances are your dream job will be snatched up by someone who majored in Renaissance Literature or something equally worthless.
It’s all about networking, and BuzzFeed’s recent major fuck-up is a good example of why this is a terrible thing.
If you are late to the party, BuzzFeed had to fire 28-year-old editor Benny Johnson for plagiarism. Johnson didn’t plagiarize once, twice or three times, but in FORTY-ONE separate “articles.” In most cases, the plagiarism was word-for-word copying without attributing anything to the original source. My criticism of BuzzFeed (and other blogs claiming to be news sources) has been very vocal before this, so you can imagine my elation when I heard about this.
As Dylan Byers of Politico pointed out, Johnson had no journalism background, in education or career. He worked for a few right-wing websites after graduating from the University of Iowa with an organic chemistry and developmental psychology degree, according to Mediabistro. Nothing suggests that Benny Johnson of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was qualified to be a journalist. But because he knew people in Washington and did some things on some websites, he was hired as an editor for BuzzFeed.
Because he wasn’t qualified to be a journalist, he plagiarized the shit out of everything.
In the age of the Internet, everyone believes they are qualified to talk about everything and consequentially, do everything. Everyone is a writer, everyone is an artist, everyone is a musician and everyone is an expert about everything. Therefore, if you want to land a job doing whatever it is that you want, you better be damn good at networking and selling yourself.
There is a reason why journalism school exists, and it is not because any asshole with any kind of background can do it. Journalism is bound by ethics, laws and standard practices that can only be learned through education and experience. I know every state that has a “two-party” law concerning recording phone calls. Do you? I can spot which leads are actual stories and which leads are false, PR stunts. Can you? No? Then quit calling yourself a journalist!
College is completely pointless, and it is not just because of the absurd costs. A college degree doesn’t guarantee you a job at all, let alone in your chosen field. The only thing that can guarantee you land your dream job is knowing the right people. Half of the radio personalities I have met fell into radio, rather than study broadcasting in college, do an internship and slowly work their way up to personality. They knew someone, got an opportunity and seized it. Meanwhile, someone grinding their way through the process gets left in the dust. Not coincidentally, radio and journalism are dying industries. Maybe it’s because the people working in those industries don’t have the passion, education and experience that comes with chasing the dream.
Often times, rich kids get these opportunities either by being able to afford an unpaid internship in New York City or because pops knows the CEO. This makes an education and—fuck it, I’m not getting into this aspect right now.
Then again, we’re all to blame. BuzzFeed is calling themselves the biggest websites for NEWS and entertainment, and it is sadly true. Every day, I see someone on Facebook repost a ridiculous BuzzFeed article that takes a 60-second Google search to debunk. Meanwhile, these same people are overlooking The New York Times, Washington Post, etc.
We leave open-heart surgery to doctors, litigation to lawyers, and building skyscrapers to architects and engineers. So then why are we not leaving the source of all incoming information to journalists?