Canadian journalism students’ desire to pursue a career in their field declines steadily throughout their degree, according to a recent study.
Carleton University assistant journalism professor Aneurin Bosley looked at the motivations and perceptions of journalism students at the country’s two largest journalism schools — Ryerson University and Carleton University, both in Ontario.
For first-year respondents in the survey, 83 per cent indicated that they were either “likely” or “absolutely” going to pursue a career in journalism, while only 54.7 per cent of fourth-year students said the same.
Bosley said he couldn’t find a similar Canadian study to compare his to, but he noted the results aren’t necessarily something to worry about.
“In other countries it appears that it’s fairly common for the aggregate desire to pursue a career in journalism to decline over the course of the journalism program,” Bosley said in an interview with J-Source.
He said the results varied when work experience was taken into account. He found that students who had some experience, especially if it was paid, showed the strongest enthusiasm toward journalism. Of the fourth-year respondents with paid work experience, 79.3 per cent reported a desire to work in the field.
Bosley said that work experience appears to reassure students of their expectations about the industry. “We don’t exactly see people with work experience running for the exit signs,” he said.
His study also looked at the what motivated students to study journalism. He found that in general students are more strongly motivated by the pleasure of writing and desire to be creative than they are by the thought of acting as a sort of public watchdog.
Bosley said these results surprised him at first based on usual popular culture references to journalists owning that watchdog role.
But the ability “to hold people in power accountable” was the only motivation factor that actually increased between first-year and fourth-year students. Bosley said the strong socialization component that takes place during a degree may have played a part in this.
“We kind of have to speculate, but assuming the respondents are giving us an accurate picture of how they see the role of journalism, I’m sure most journalism professors would hew fairly closely to that watchdog role … Evidently that message is getting through.”
Bosley said it’s important to note that his results are only a snapshot of what the students in their respective years of study felt at the time, so it doesn’t track actual change.
He has since collected updated data to get a better sense of how students’ views and motivations truly changed over the four years, and is working to go through the results.
The fundamental values of journalism, such as going out in the world and talking with people, aren’t changing and will continue to attract people to journalism, according to Bosley.
“I would expect that as long as those characteristics are still true of journalism, people will still be highly motivated to do it.”