Pro/Con: Brazilian journalists debate journalism degree requirement

The Brazilian Senate recently bucked a 2009 ruling by the South American country's Supreme Court when it approved a bill reestablishing the requirement that all practicing journalists have an advanced degree. The following post is part of series produced by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas debating the requirement. We invite you, the reader, to share your opinion in the comments section below.

This post offers the views of two Brazilian journalists. See also the opinions of two journalism professors and two students, as previous posts in the series.

See the complete post here in Portuguese.

Con: Marcelo Soares*

The requirement is too late

Throughout the time it was enforced, the requirement of a journalism degree did not guarantee the quality of journalism education. At least not in recent times. For one simple reason: there is no recipe for training journalists, each college offers its own menu.

With the requirement, less reputable schools proliferated, which ensured a lucrative market due to the requirement of the diploma and the difficulty of entering the most prestigious schools. Without a minimum curriculum for a degree, it was only necessary to keep students in the classroom for four years and, ultimately, deliver a piece of letterhead.

Unknown is how many quality journalism schools closed after the degree requirement ended. On the contrary, I hear there was increased demand. A good journalism school still is the best place to study the profession.

Also unknown is whether newsrooms were invaded by a hoard of unprepared journalists, because there exists a fabulous contingent of journalists (good and bad) trained to hire graduates... Ultimately, the degree requirement only benefited operators of low-quality schools.

At a time when there is more space to create plurality taking advantage of the web environment, few journalistic enterprises are created by young professionals trained in the schools. This means...there is a fabulous market for journalism schools: Instead of selling certificates, they can generate and sell innovation.

It is a Brazilian illusion to want to guarantee quality with a decree or a piece of letterhead. The degree requirement is dead. Long live good journalism schools.

*Marcelo Soares is a reporter and database journalism instructor in São Paulo. He is a memner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Previously he worked at the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo, was a political columnist for, and manager of the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji in Portuguese).

Pro: Cristiane Bonfim*

Education is fundamental for more pluralistic and quality journalism

It was March 15, 1995, when I arrived on the Benfica Campus for my first day of journalism school at the Federal University of Ceará. In spite of the difficulties because lack of investment in public universities, I had four years of intense education. I spent time with professors that changed my life forever. There were lessons, especially about ethics, that have been part of my daily routine for more than 15 years. I will not now say that this time was unnecessary or irrelevant and that good journalists have to be trained "on the job."

To believe that the market self-regulates and chooses only the best is an expectation that, at minimum, is risky. A degree to practice journalism represents a certain safeguard for the activity done by those who prize quality, are guided by ethics, and who act in defense of the collective interest. Of course these are not inherent qualities of all those who graduate from journalism school. Much remains to be improved in most undergraduate courses in the area. However, the search for more solid training in colleges, that goes beyond mere technical work, could bring to newsrooms people who are more prepared to look for a balance between accuracy, ethics, and the urgency of deadlines.

The degree requirement does not limit freedom of expression, since it does not impede specialists from opining. The journalist has the responsibility to bring to a story, soundbite or image various visions about an agenda. This is something that isn't learned in weekend courses. This has to be taught in journalism schools and, after, consolidated in newsrooms with the interaction of more experienced professionals. Producing journalistic content demands techniques, checks, and a commitment to information. New media will never dispense with old, but necessary, journalism rules.

*Cristiane Bonfim is the National/International editor of Diário do Nordeste in Fortaleza, former director of the Professional Journalists Union of the state of Ceará, and journalism graduate of the Federal University of Ceará.