The inevitable is happening. After the Missouri School of Journalism was able to make its students buy unnecessary MacBooks and extravagant iPhones, there is now talk of requiring iPads too. We can’t let that happen.
The J-School’s Innovation Committee is
talking about adding the iPad to the roster of Apple products it already requires each Mizzou journalism student to purchase. As Associate Dean Brian Brooks told The Maneater, “We’re definitely taking a look at the iPad going forward.”
It was just two years ago that the J-School required all incoming journalism students to have an iPhone, even though Brooks admitted the requirement was mostly a way to exploit a financial aid loophole. Everyone from Gawker to Engadget mocked the journalism school for that one, and rightfully so.
The Maneater ran an impassioned and well-reasoned editorial yesterday on all the reasons not to require journalism students buy an iPad. The entire editorial is worth a read, but here is my favorite line: “Considering that the iPod touch requirement was nothing but a bust in the J-School, forcing students to purchase an expensive device that is hardly, if ever, used in courses, it’s troublesome that J-School administrators are already looking into future requirements.”
As Convergence sophomore Robert Partyka told us, “I’ve used my iPod touch once so far: the first day of J1010, so Brooks could take a picture of every one holding up their iPods.”
If this requirement actually passes, journalism students would be required to buy an Apple laptop, an Apple iPhone and an Apple iPad. Should we just make it official and open an Apple Store in the J-School?
The MacBook offers no functionality or software for a student journalist that you cannot find on a Windows PC. That’s the same problem with the iPhone, which accomplishes little from a journalist’s standpoint that you can’t do on
another smart phone.
Even the J-School can’t think of a journalistic purpose for an iPad…yet. Mike McKean is the head of the J-School’s Innovation Committee (disclosure: McKean leads the Convergence Capstone, the class for which we are doing J-School Buzz). He told The Maneater that the iPad requirement is not certain at this point. “It depends on whether we’ll have a use for it in classes,” he said. “Are there enough assignments where this would be useful?”
No, there are not. The iPad is great for consuming content, but it’s pretty terrible in my experience at creating or editing videos and photos and even text. It’s certainly not good enough to make it a requirement for journalism students. It’s also worth noting that they cost at minimum $500 each, while the required iPhones now cost as little as $50.
The Director of Digital Development for the Missourian, Rob Weir, pointed out that by the time incoming students actually start using these Apple products in journalism classes, there’s been at least one new version released. “If Apple continues its trend of releasing a version update of the iPad each year, as it’s done with the iPhone and iPod Touch, then students could have a device that’s a couple years out of date by the time they are using it in classes, assuming they even make it to the J-School.”
The Missouri School of Journalism has an
uncomfortably extremely close relationship with Apple, but just because Apple releases new product does not mean it should be required for journalism students. It feels like we have reached the point where any new Apple product is open to becoming a J-School requirement.
I have joked ever since the iPad came out it was only a matter of time before the iPad was required in the journalism school. I thought the possibility of that happening was so ridiculous and far-fetched that it would never happen. And yet here we are.
What’s next? Maybe Apple TV? I can actually imagine the J-School justifying an Apple TV requirement by saying it would allow us to consume television and digital news on a new platform to accommodate the hectic J-Schooler schedule. Where does the Apple love end?
Let me finish this off with a melodramatic interpretation of “First They Came.”
First they made us buy MacBooks we don’t need, and I didn’t speak up because I really hate Windows PCs.
Then they made us buy iPhones we don’t need, and I didn’t speak up because I wanted a smartphone (though I went with an Android instead).
And now they are coming to require that we buy iPads we don’t need, and it is time to speak out. Don’t let the school make us buy another unnecessary piece of Apple technology that serves no practical journalistic purpose. We still have time to fight this bad idea.