YOUR NEUTRAL APOSTROPHES SICKEN ME

Every time I think of Ryerson Journalism, I think of lengthy, knowing looks Gerald Hannon casts my way at public functions. (We’ve never exchanged a word.)

Who’s teaching Ryerson’s next generation of journalists, apart from Ryan Bigge? Who’s teaching them how to manifest the next generation of journalism?

Thus far, not me. I applied last year, which had all the effect, as I like to say, of a neutrino whizzing through the earth. Last year’s course description explicitly stated that code knowledge was irrelevant to an online journalist, a first sign of trouble.

Since then I’ve learned a few things. I reapplied for the job (excerpted):

First of all, is this really an open competition? I don’t think it is.

My mental model of the journalism profession in Toronto is as follows: If you get your byline into Toronto Life, you’re one of us and we’ll hire you. Somewhat unfair? Of course. But not without justification. After all, Ryerson hired Tim Falconer to sub in for another professor after a ten-minute chat. (How do I know? He told me.) Falconer is part of the Family Compact and I’m not. He gets in with a shrug and I don’t even get an acknowledgement.

So: I have reason to believe you aren’t running an open competition. You want to hire somebody you already know, i.e., somebody with the right bylines who goes to the right parties.

I do have countervailing evidence. I know there is a degree of student dissatisfaction with the way the online-journalism course is taught. I know this because I had a student sip tea in my living room and tell me about. I’m not sure that instructor even knows what the Web is, seeing as how she apparently requires MLA-compliant citations for every source instead of just linking to it. I concede this instructor is an exception to the rule. But if you’re going to hire outside the Family Compact, hire somebody who got online the year current Ryerson undergrads were born. […]

Unlike some others, I don’t jump onto bandwagons. When you’ve been online for 19 years, you’ve seen a lot of services come and go. (Where is Friendster now? Should I add you on MySpace?) Hence I am not the kind of person who thinks Twitter will save, will replace, or even has much of a role in journalism. I’m here to teach students how to use the Internet to report, not how to open an account on somebody else’s Web app. […]

I think what you’re actually looking for is a print journo who got stuck with a Web job five years ago and now wants to teach – somebody with experience at the (failed and halfhearted) Web division of a print newspaper. I’d say what you need is somebody with a print background and native Web experience.

Attitude queens: A love story

Don’t like my attitude? Well, who does, and what does it matter? A Canadian with a bad attitude is another way of describing a Canadian who hasn’t quite gotten fed up enough to leave the country yet.

Anyway, are you hiring for attitude? Do you think RyeHigh is? Which of you will be honest enough to admit it?

Let me tell you more about this intel I have on the previous instructor on the course. I had a J-student talk to me on the phone, and come over to my house, to interview me as a source for a story. Not much of a story, I wouldn’t say, but he was stuck with it. Now, this was a very smart cookie. Half my age, but still wants to be a newspaperman, a term uttered unironically. I’d hire him.

But he had a hard time explaining just what was being taught in his course on online journalism. It very much seemed a a reënactment of the proverb about the student becoming the teacher, though I don’t know which exact student should have taken over. This guy would probably have been a good choice. Among other things, he wouldn’t have insisted that every “online journalism” story has to include “text,” audio, video, and still pictures, and that every source must be documented in a bibliography.

With that kind of acumen, this contract J-instructor has a shining future of running her own Toronto Web shop. Her ability to get everything completely wrong in ways nonexperts see right through suits her perfectly for Toronto mediocrity. Imagine what she thinks of the awesome power of the Twitter to commit journalism. (Hashtags all ’round.)

Even if you’ve never seen me in action, you need to believe me when I tell you I’d love nothing more than to teach a roomful of smart kids. And I’d be amazing at it. I already have done it and I already was amazing. Plus they like me and they like my shit.

This isn’t hypothetical. You weren’t there, but I was. I just want to do it again.

Ryerson Journalism is a 20th-century faculty with a single graduate course oriented toward the future. I have evidence, albeit imperfect, that they only hire people they already know and like. Having any kind of audacity is viewed as a character flaw here; I have the audacity to challenge RyeHigh’s institutional biases. I defy Ryerson to ignore an applicant they don’t know but already dislike who can actually do the job better than anybody in town.

Did I mention I have a recommendation from the first person who ever taught this course? That won’t matter either.


Special update for haters:
I was right

Mass electronic mail from the department secretary, who had, incidentally, previously apologized for failing to acknowledge last year’s application: “Once again the field was highly competitive and many experienced instructors are returning to teach again.” (Emphasis added.)

So yes, by the department’s own admission, RyeHigh J-school is an exclusive club. “Many” of its instructors previously were instructors. The only question I have is: How many of them have bylines in Toronto Life, how many swan about at the same parties as the department head and tenured faculty, and how many got hired after a ten-minute chat?

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2009.11.22 16:49. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2009/11/22/ryehighjclub/

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