Battlepanda: Credentialism


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


Late, late, late to this one. What can I say, I'm a lazy blogger.

I was rather surprised that three among my favorite bloggers (Ezra, Matt and Kevin) decided that the takeaway point of the Marilee Jones debacle was that credentialism has run amok. She so obviously had to go down. I seem to remember no problem with accomplished writers, artists etc. teaching while I was at Amherst without advanced degrees. It's the lying that's the big problem. However, having said that, credentialism is an interesting issue to me.

I stumble into journalism. I came back to Taiwan to teach English, was an absolute disaster in the classroom and ended up interview for my current job as a reporter after seeing it in the classified. After I got the job, I took my first day at work to take care of administrative stuff. Then my editor gave me an assignment for the next day. "Write 300 words on it," was about the extent to which I was instructed. I attended the event, wrote my 300 words, and was told to compare the printed version to my original the next day. Needless to say it was an unimportant news item tucked way the heck in the corner. It was also quite different to what I handed in. After several weeks of this, less and less stuff got changed. That's how I knew I was getting better. OK, there might have been a couple of occasions where I was pulled aside by one of the editors and told "you see this paragraph that begins your story? It's called a 'lead' and we don't like it to be too long" but for the most part I was left to sink or swim.

I can do my job adequately now. Maybe one day I will even do it well, despite the fact that I've no formal training and precious little instruction on the job. Thoughts...

1) I'm all for things I can do to learn how to become a better reporter. Reading books? Great. Workshops? All for them. Conferences and more socializing with other reporters in general? Where do I sign up. Years of classes at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars? No thank you.

2) I cannot think of another journalist I know of who does not work for an english newspaper who did not study journalism in college. In some cases they regretted their choice and wanted to do something else, but no, they were stuck.

If I had lived in Taiwan all my life and not have been bilingual, I could still do what I do now quite adequately for a Chinese paper (asking questions, writing stories, organizing contacts...) but I would probably not have gotten hired as a journalist without my advantage as a bilingual worker.

Would I have learned valuable things in journalism school that would put me in good stead as a reporter, undoubtedly. Would the amount of learning I'd do be worth the cost both in tuition and lost opportunity to work? Hmmm...

Estimated M.A. and Ph.D. Tuition and Fees 2006-2007 - 9 months
Tuition $33,574
Admission deposit $950
Books/Laptop $2,000
University, Health Service & Insurance fees $2,827
Transcript fee $45
Total 1st year charge $39,396

Including living expenses, the Ph.D. and M.A. student budget is estimated at $55,906.