Schadenfreude Is Cheap: Don’t Worry About the Journalists of the Future

MUD day 3:

I recently joined the LinkedIn for Journalists group, which turns out to be more useful and interesting than I had expected. A post from a couple of weeks ago pointed to an entry in Roger Ebert’s Journal headlined “Help! Our journalists of the future.” The entry consisted almost entirely of extracts from bad student writing, provided by a friend who teaches a university journalism course. The following extract is typical:

One thing is for sure were in for quite a ride and an impeccable race that’s for sure.

I do my share of bagging on journalists, but students are too easy a target. Having taught college English for several years, I know that in every batch of papers, you can find both brilliant and abysmal bits of writing. I also know that, as one of Ebert’s commenters pointed out, “some of the problems are the result of the rush to get the assignment done overnight—or, even more likely, in the moments before class started.”

What Ebert’s column really reflects, other than an easy way to write a blog post, is what every elder generation feels: that their young are a disappointment, not up to the great things they did. There is even a kind of schadenfreude, or covert joy in their shortcomings.

Bad, even sub-literate writing, has always been with us, and always will be. But of those students Ebert quotes, the few who really care, who are passionate about their craft, will overcome their weaknesses and become good, perhaps even great, journalists.