The University of Toronto’s Student Newspaper Since 1880

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Opinion: UTSG needs to stop “tiptoeing around” and offer a journalism major

The study of journalism is integral to our modern digital society
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Journalism is an integral area of study because it offers both a practical and theoretical lens toward academia. SHANNA HUNTER/ THE VARSITY
Journalism is an integral area of study because it offers both a practical and theoretical lens toward academia. SHANNA HUNTER/ THE VARSITY

When students enroll in a university with such a rich history and large size as U of T, the sheer number of academic opportunities can be overwhelming. With the school’s program of study system that gives students the liberty to pursue a variety of specialist, major, and minor combinations among more than 340 programs from the Faculty of Arts and Science at UTSG alone, undergraduate students are rarely concerned about any academic deficiencies. 

However, if the objective of U of T’s vast array of academic programs is to ensure that students can receive a comprehensive education, then UTSG is missing an integral major: journalism. 

You may be thinking, “Well, isn’t journalism dead?” I am well aware that, relative to Canada’s total population, there has been a decrease in the size of the journalism workforce over the years. After all, in 2017, 0.06 per cent of the Canadian population were working journalists; a marked decrease from the 0.08 per cent in 1987.  

However, a more nuanced approach is necessary to understand those numbers. As the internet rapidly became the most popular medium of accessing media, there may have been a decrease in the number of journalists working for traditional news firms in permanent positions, but there has also been a gradual increase in the number of journalists working as freelancers. Thus, the more precise question that should be asked is not if journalism is dead, but rather what journalism has become and why we still need journalists. 

Journalism is an integral area of study because it offers both a practical and theoretical lens toward academia. Students studying journalism today should not be limited to learning just the mechanics of writing, but rather, they should also be learning what journalism means in our modern digital age. Journalism programs should leave students with increased literacy skills in media, as well as a better understanding of the sociological spheres that are covered by journalistic reporting.

Journalism is a program that can be combined with numerous other fields of study. Many universities with prominent journalism programs — such as New York University — even require their students to take on other areas of study in addition to their journalism major. 

At UTSC, students have the freedom to pursue either a Specialist (Joint) Program in Journalism or a Major Program in Media, Journalism and Digital Cultures. By enrolling in the Specialist (Joint) Program, students also qualify for Centennial College’s Ontario Graduate Certificate in Contemporary Journalism, which provides students professional opportunities while in pursuit of their degree. Those who find greater interest in critical analysis of journalism rather than a professional career in the field are encouraged to enroll in the Major Program in Media, Journalism and Digital Cultures. 

Because UTSC’s journalism programs hold incredible academic value, students of UTSG should be provided the equal opportunity to pursue a program of their interest without having to compromise their decision to live and study in downtown Toronto. 

According to Janna Abbas and Rion Levy, the Editors-in-Chief of The Strand, UTSG has a myriad of programs that are “tip-toeing around journalism.” In an interview with The Varsity, Abbas and Levy noted that it strikes them as baffling for U of T to offer programs in English, book and media studies, writing and rhetoric, and literature and critical theory while excluding the study of journalism. 

By leading The Strand, Abbas and Levy have come to understand the necessity of journalism and the study of it: “student journalism creates and circulates dialogue about campus (and off-campus) life[,] helping us stay connected within the much larger and more confusing world around us.”

By reading the stirring written works published in The Strand, students learn to both critically analyze and identify with the lived experiences of their fellow students. Thus, through journalism, conversations are instigated and students learn to find their place in modern society. 

In the end, the central rationale behind a journalism program at UTSG is to create students who can question and dissent. The more we evolve into a data-driven society where a single truth seemingly cancels out any possibility of others, the more we need students to study journalism and form their conscience on us, our society, and our place within. 

Eleanor Park is a second-year student at Trinity College studying English and religion. She is an associate comment editor at The Varsity.