Mr. McIntyre disagrees. He had a 30-year copy-editing career without benefit of a J-school degree. His school? Apprenticeship. He learned from established and talented copy editors.
Some newspapers smile kindly on a job candidate bearing a journalism degree, and, yes, I got a J-school degree for that reason. Did it get me my first job, or any job after that? No one ever said. But from what I've noticed, I agree with Mr. McIntyre. I've met some wonderful newspapermen who learned on the job without the benefit of a journalism degree. In fact, I learned early from a woman who had two arts degrees and a man who boasted a geology degree.
While I was in college, I worked at the Radford (Va.) College school newspaper, the interestingly-named Grapurchat (named reportedly because the school's original colors were purple and gray and the first editor was chatty). And I worked at the Radford College Office of Information and Publications. I learned a ton more there than I did in class.
Looking back, I might have double majored in journalism and something else I liked (perhaps choral singing) or minored in journalism. In the end, the work was more important in my growth than classes. Let me amend that: I loved Charles Milsaps' classes (boy, I hope I spelled his last name right; it's been a long time), and I learned a lot. Charles was a little like Ducky on NCIS; he even looked a bit like David McCallum. But he was amazed by how much I had improved in two years, and that's attributable to me working at the college newspaper and in the college information office.
Here's some free advice: You get out of college what you put into it, and a journalism degree can be useful at a lot of places other than a newspaper (or magazine) office or a radio or TV station.
And if you really want to be a copy editor or sports writer, don't let a philosophy degree (or an animal husbandry degree) get in your way.
But remember: Newspapers are laying off copy editors and reporters by the thousands. It's a tough business nowadays.
Contact: Reach me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More EDITOR@WORK blog entries
Blog entries from The Auto Racing Journal
(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)
More blog entries by Tom Gillispie
Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie