If I were a young person just starting out to build a career as a writer, I’d be tempted to sign up for the City University of New York’s master’s program in journalism.
What got me thinking about this was an interview I heard on the radio program “On The Media” with Jeff Jarvis, who teaches a course in entrepreneurial journalism in the CUNY program.
(For those who prefer to read, here’s a transcript.)
Among the things Jarvis says in the interview is “the reason I’m teaching entrepreneurial journalism is so we can also prepare our students to go start their own jobs, create their own jobs and their own work.”
Given the way the writing world is changing these days, an program aimed at preparing people to create their own work seems like the best possible kind of education. The school also offers a number of classes in interactive journalism, as well as the more traditional writing, reporting, and editing classes.
Of course, this program is aimed at journalists, not fiction writers. But despite the fact that there’s a huge business these days in MFA programs for creative writers, I’ve yet to find one that offers courses designed to help their students “create their own jobs and their own work.” As near as I can tell, the only job prospect for someone with an MFA in creative writing is a teaching job somewhere. And unless you have a degree from one of the prestigious programs, you’re mostly looking at adjunct positions paying very little.
MFA programs are still preparing students for a world that no longer exists. (I am not discussing here the value of such programs in teaching people how to write — that’s another can of worms entirely — but only their value at preparing people to make a living related to their writing.) For that matter, so are a lot of journalism schools; I did a little poking around online and the CUNY program looks pretty unique.
It’s also short — a three-semester program — and reasonably cheap ($12,835 total three-semester tuition and fees for New Yorkers).
While I’d really like to take the entrepreneurial journalism class in particular, I don’t need a master’s degree. I already work as a journalist. But if I lived in NYC, I’d look into their continuing education programs, which seem to include some new media courses.
But what I’d really like to see are some entrepreneurial courses for creative writers. We’re out here on our own, making it up as we go along.
Hey, maybe some of us from Book View Cafe can get hired to teach MFA students how to create a writers’ co-op!
Nancy Jane has stories in both of the anthologies recently published by Book View Press: “The Savage and the Monster” in The Shadow Conspiracy and “Blindsided by Venus in the House of Mars” in Rocket Boy and the Geek Girls.
Her collection Conscientious Inconsistencies is available from PS Publishing and her novella Changeling can be ordered from Aqueduct Press. All fifty of the short-short stories she posted as part of her year-long Flash Fiction Project are available for free here.