Apple computers offer almost nothing to the average Mizzou journalism student you can’t find on a less pricey laptop, and certainly not enough to justify the outrageous price tag.
One of the first things the J-School tells you when you show up for Summer Welcome (right after the part about how you will totally find a job, LOL) is that you need to buy an Apple laptop from the MU Bookstore with all the accessories.
The official line from the Mizzou J-School is that you just need a laptop equipped with Windows Office when you enroll. In reality, you will be ostracized and made to feel unwelcome carrying any laptop not emblazoned with the Apple logo. If you have ever seen this picture of a Mizzou journalism lecture class, you can see the J-School has been pretty effective at driving home the message that you need an Apple MacBook to make it there.
The cheapest MacBook option from the MU Bookstore is more than $1,300, while the most expensive is closer to $2,800. It includes such non-essentials as a specially branded Missouri School of Journalism backpack, flash drive, notebook lock and Microsoft Office.
For all the good this laptop will do you as a journalism student, you would be better off buying a cheap laptop, uploading all of your documents to Google Docs and Dropbox and your music to Amazon Cloud Drive or Google Music Beta, and downloading the free Open Office suite of software. That will save you more than $800 on the cheapest package from the bookstore as compared to this comparable laptop we found, and save more than $2,000 on the most expensive one.
We weren’t going to say anything about this, but then we read this story in the Columbia Tribune about an incoming journalism student named Katie Bailey:
Right in front of a Tiger Tech booth at a University of Missouri Summer Welcome fair, Lana Bailey is ready to cry.
Her daughter, Katie, needs a laptop before she starts college in the fall, but they’re not sure which to buy. A pre-journalism student, she has been told the school requires, or at least prefers, a Mac. But she’s not sure what type of journalism she’s going to pursue, and that will make a difference.
We later learn that Bailey is a first-generation college student and the child of a single mother. She is also making some hefty sacrifices to afford her college education, like paying for this laptop herself and skipping the dorms (er, residence halls) and living with a family friend in Columbia to save on room and board.
Don’t put yourself through this misery, Katie. The Mizzou J-School has a habit of putting in place technology requirements whose benefits are not clearly articulated to students, particularly those who come from a lower socioeconomic class. It’s an intriguing irony for a school based on the art of communication to mass audiences.
I just graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism last month, and I can tell you with complete certainty that I never once did an assignment in a journalism class that I could not have done on a Windows-based computer. There is no piece of software or functionality in the line of Apple laptops that is essential to a Mizzou journalism student.
The J-School usually trots out the iLife suite of software programs on MacBooks as proof that these computers are essential to journalism students. The idea is that Apple computers come with programs that allow you to edit video, photos and even audio. But you will never use iMovie to edit video for a journalism class, never use iPhoto to edit photos and never use GarageBand to edit audio. You will use top-of-the-line software programs like Final Cut Pro, Avid, Adobe Audition and of course PhotoShop to do that work.
As Engadget and others have pointed out, the J-School makes these Apple items “required” partly to manipulate financial aid rules. You see, financial aid will only cover items that are required by the school, not just optional or recommended items. It’s not enough for the J-School to recommend we all buy Apple products, it has to “require” that we all buy them so we can include these expensive gadgets in our financial need estimates.
I’m sure we can find more useful ways to spend that financial aid money than on admittedly non-essential and pricey Apple products. And maybe someone should tell incoming students that this “requirement” is more like a “requirement *nudge* *nudge* say no more!”
That said, I am typing these very words on a MacBook Pro I received as a graduation gift from my parents. What’s more, I carry this laptop in the Missouri School of Journalism-branded backpack I got as a freshman. It’s a great computer, and given a choice between a Windows-based computer and a MacBook I would go with the MacBook every time.
But I have been blessed to come from a family that can afford such extravagances. Not every potential journalism student is so lucky, nor should they be. Diversity in every respect should be encouraged in this journalism school, be it financial or racial or intellectual.
From rising tuition to the journalism industry’s reliance on indentured servitude to stagnant salaries, it is becoming less and less feasible for students who don’t come from at least a middle class background to make it in journalism. This J-School should not make it even harder for the less economically fortunate to succeed in journalism with superfluous Apple laptop requirements.
But I’m just one J-School grad and mine is just one (rather loud) voice, so maybe my experiences with Apple products in journalism classes were different from other J-Schoolers. Share your thoughts in the comments section, because this site works best as a community discussion starter.
“Hey Teeg, I agree with the main thrust of your post, and I’d add something else: a LOT of freshmen declare pre-J, and many of those don’t make it to the J-school, whether due to grades or interest changes or whatever. Also, many students don’t know as freshmen what sequence/interest area/whatever we’re calling that which they’ll wind up in. And, generally, that’s two years after they start as freshmen, which is a long time in computer terms.
My advice to freshmen would be to keep using whatever laptop you have, or to get an inexpensive laptop to start college with. Then, when they settle on an interest area, that can inform a further purchase. If they’re going to be editing high-end video, they need a different set of hardware than someone who’s mostly doing reporting, and a different set from a designer, etc. Making that decision as they enter the J-school is a much better time, IMO.”