Criticizing Columbia Journalism School's $92,933 Price Tag Is Easy. Here's Why You Shouldn't.
Columbia's graduate journalism school is planning to cut staff and shrink class sizes. In a story on the news, Bloomberg relays the following: "Estimated tuition, fees, and living expenses for a full-time master's degree student are $92,933, according to the school website."
People who work in the media industry lost their minds over this line on Twitter on Wednesday night. After all, $92,933 is a lot of money for an industry that doesn't promise investment-banking-type riches. Or, to be more current, it doesn't promise app-maker riches.
Here's a guy I know who works in media saying people don't need to go to journalism school:
PSA to anyone who wants to become a journalist: You don’t have to go to journalism school. Don’t go! http://t.co/VZaPOlj0Bx— Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) March 11, 2015
He's half-right. You don't have to go to journalism school if you want to be a journalist. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't go. I went to journalism school, and it was one of the best decisions I've made in my life.
Here's my story: I graduated from the University of Delaware in 2002 with a BA in economics. I didn't do any internships while in college. When I graduated, the economy was in the toilet thanks to the collapse of the dot-com bubble and 9/11. I had no experience in my field.
And frankly, I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. I couldn't land a real job. Turns out that when you go for a job interview and the person asks, "Why do you want to work here?" you shouldn't answer with, "I just want a job."
I spent the next five years working a middling job at the University of Pennsylvania. I was working at the photocopy shop at Wharton—Reprographics. My coworkers were great fun to be around, but they were not high achievers. One guy, for instance, literally slept on the job. Out in the open in front of everyone, he just took a nap every day. He also brought in his weights and tried to set up a mini gym in a storage space so that he could work out while on the clock.
The job was mind-numbing, but it was easy. I was able to listen to music and talk radio. It also allowed me to take two classes per semester free at Penn. I took lots of art classes. I learned how to use Photoshop. I took a bunch of photography classes. I took a few classes on video and a few writing classes.
Somewhere along the way, I decided I needed to do something more productive with my life. I was between going to school for filmmaking and journalism. I chose journalism because I thought I would have a better shot at landing a job when I was done.
(In retrospect, journalism was a perfect fit for me. I like taking classes and learning new things. I also like the creativity of art like photography and video. Journalism is built on constant learning. It requires creativity to tell stories. Also, I love talk radio, which is what modern journalism is most like.)
When I decided to do journalism school, I went to my writing professor at Penn, Robert Strauss, for advice. His advice: Don't go! It's a waste of time and money. He said I should just start writing, doing freelance for local papers.
For a certain kind of person, that's great advice. For me, it made no sense. I literally could not think of one idea to pitch the local papers. And even if I did have an idea, I would have had no clue how to execute the idea.
So I decided to enroll in NYU's Business and Economic Reporting graduate program. I don't remember how much it cost. It was relatively expensive, but I got a student loan.
That program was a year-and-a-half-long immersion program in journalism. I learned more in 1 1/2 years at school than I would have freelancing for three years.
For instance, on my first day of my first class I was told to write a story finding someone who took out a subprime loan. Step one was to figure out what a subprime loan was. Step two was to have a complete meltdown about the fact that I had no idea how to find someone with a subprime loan. I sat in my apartment and thought, "I can't do this. I am totally screwed." Then I thought, "If you can't do this, then you're really screwed, because there is no plan B." I eventually figured it out. School helped me learn how to report and learn the rules of journalism.
The student loan allowed me to afford life while going to school. If I was freelancing, I'm not sure I would have been able to afford life.
It also led to my interning at a website called Silicon Alley Insider (the site that would become Business Insider) as well as BusinessWeek. There's just no way either organization is hiring a guy with no journalism training as an intern. And if I didn't intern at Silicon Alley Insider, then I wouldn't be a deputy editor at Business Insider.
So things worked out for me very nicely!
To people balking at spending $100,000 to go to journalism school, here's what I would say: It can be a power boost that propels you into the industry. It's sort of like venture capital money. Sure, you could bootstrap and grow slowly, or you could take an investment, burn the cash, and scale quickly, then figure out profitability later.
Now, this doesn't mean everyone has to go to journalism school.
The guy whose tweet I highlighted above—Farhad Manjoo—never went to journalism school, and he's making a lot of money practicing journalism. I haven't talked to him about it, but my guess is that he was always focused on doing journalism. If that's the case, then yes, journalism school isn't necessary. If you know you want to be a journalist from day one, then there are plenty of other things you should do. I would recommend doing a computer science degree and working for your school newspaper or writing a blog. Then go intern at Business Insider, or BuzzFeed, or Vox.
There's no repeatable straight line to success in life. That's one reason we write stories about people who are successful. We want to learn from their example and see what we can apply to our lives. It's never the same story.
So, people who tell you not to go to journalism school aren't necessarily right. They didn't go to school and it worked for them, so they think they're right. People who did go to journalism school and had it work will recommend it. They're not necessarily right either.
It's your call. If you think you can write your way into a journalism job, then do it. If you want to invest in training through school, then do it.
(Also, while we're here, lots of people say you can't make money in journalism. I remember on my first day of journalism school the professors were talking to us as if we decided to become monks. My parents were teachers, so I don't have the best sense of what making money is for people, but I can tell you based on following this industry that you don't have to become a monk. If you work hard, you will be rewarded. Not app-maker money, but still good money for a really fun job.)
Thank Aldi For Sending British Supermarkets Into a Death Spiral
In the days before the Internet, families would spend hours in their "favorite" supermarket at the weekend, buying in bulk, running up massive bills and keeping the physical tills ringing.
When I was growing up, it was received wisdom that the more expensive the supermarket, the "better" and the "healthier" it was, and the better the customer service would be. You knew that if you were shopping in Sainsbury's, mum and dad were probably doing a bit better than the parents who were raiding the aisles of cut price goods at Asda.
The market was structured on that basis. Waitrose was at the top for the richest people, followed by Sainsburys, Tesco and Morrisons, depending on your rung on the ladder. The quality of the food increased alongside the price, and the relative poshness of the supermarket brand selling it. The three things—quality, price and store brand—were inherently connected.
All that has turned out to be wrong. The Germans know the UK market better than the British do. In the last two years, the UK supermarket business has turned into a bloodbath of misconceptions. And the Old Guard—Tesco, Sainsburys, and Morrisons—are losing.
Just look at this chart by market researchers at Kantar Worldpanel. From 2012 to 2015, the German discount chains Aldi boosted their market share. Aldi went to 5 percent, from 2.6 percent; while Lidl's share rose to 3.5 percent from 2.5 percent. They have taken nearly 9 percent of the market in just two years:
Sometime in the 1990s, British people started taking food seriously and realized that price was often no guide to taste or freshness. Online shopping and celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver and A Girl Called Jack showed Britons that you can have quality food for a fraction of the price at supermarkets, if you know what you're doing.
Supermarkets that don't provide great, cheap food are hurting as a result: Morrisons reported its worst set of profit results in eight years, today. Its pre-tax profit plunged 52 percent to £345 million ($517 million), compared to the previous year, while revenues fell 4.9 percent to £16.8 billion in 2014, from £17.68 billion in 2013.
"This is a rout, not a reversal," said Phil Dorrell, director of retail consultants at Retail Remedy. "With the most dated stores and weakest business strategy of the old guard grocers, Morrisons has truly been put to the sword by the rise of Aldi and Lidl."
The war is making food cheaper, too. Kantar Worldpanel says food prices in Britain dropped by 1.6 percent in 2014, compared with the previous year. That has helped consumers save £400 million.
"We keep prices constantly low while keeping product quality consistently high, which is exactly what shoppers want," said Roman Heini, Aldi's UK group managing director in September last year. "They had become used to thinking you have to pay more for better products. We've shown them this doesn't have to be the case."
Aldi and Lidl's growth trajectories are insane. Aldi sales rocketed 19.3 percent in the 12 weeks ending March 1, 2015, compared with a year ago. That was the slowest rate of growth since June 2011. It still managed to rack up 5 percent market share from 2.6 percent the year before. Lidl, which is a privately owned company based in Germany and therefore does not have to reported its earnings in the same way as a public company, also posted growth of 13.6 percent.
On March 10 this year, Ocado, the food equivalent of Amazon, reported a 19 percent jump in gross group sales for the 12 weeks to February 22 2015, compared to a year ago. In other words, the new players are growing. The traditional British chains that once anchored every high street are shrinking.
For some of them, even being a supermarket is a liability. "It’s hard to see a way out for Morrisons, the minnow of the supermarket group, as more and more people are preferring to do the weekly shop online, making physical stores more of a drain on an already weak balance sheet," said Augustin Eden, a research analyst at Accendo Markets.
Now look at Britain's largest supermarket, Tesco. Despite the Tesco recording its best performance in 18 months in the 12 weeks leading to 1 March, sales were only up 1.1 percent. This period included the Christmas and New Year related discounts.
“Supermarkets have to get used to this ‘new normal’ of low profit margins and must adapt accordingly. The discount retailers like Aldi and Lidl have fundamentally disrupted the market and the Big Four—Tesco, Morrisons, Asda and Sainsbury's—must accept their losing market share,” said Professor Heiner Evanschitzky, professor and chair of marketing at Aston Business School.
“The best option for them now is to shrink their businesses gracefully,” he says.
A Dollar and a Euro Could Soon Be Worth the Same Thing
The euro crumbled below a new benchmark in early trading Tuesday, falling below $1.08 for the first time in 11 years, and just kept sliding all day. At 4:30 p.m. GMT (12:30 a.m. ET) it dropped to as low as low as $1.0709, down 1.32 percent.
Less than a week ago, it was above $1.10. And just 12 months ago, the euro reached an 18-month high against the dollar, at nearly $1.40. It has plunged 22.5 percent since then. Here's how it looks:
The rapid decline of the euro is raising questions about whether and when the two currencies might reach parity again, according to the FT. They have not been one for one since 2002.
Here's the FT:
"It's a risk that the market will move towards parity," says Jane Foley, senior FX strategist at Rabobank. "It's something which may happen during the course of the year."
As Divyang Shah, global strategist at IFR Markets, puts it: "The trend remains your friend on this one and we see a strong possibility for the unit to trade at parity this year."
Oxford Economics and Goldman Sachs had forecast that the euro would drop to parity against the dollar by the end of 2016, though that could happen a lot sooner at the speed at which the euro is weakening. Many forecasters started the year with a $1.15 forecast for the euro at the end of the 2015. Unless the euro strengthens considerably from now on, that's not looking like a very good projection.
Generally, the European Central Bank's new quantitative-easing program should tend to weaken the euro, and the Federal Reserve's likely rate hikes should strengthen the US currency: When investments made in dollars can get a better return through higher interest rates, demand for dollars goes up, and so the currency strengthens against others.
And as far as pretty much anyone is concerned, in the next couple of years the ECB will keep monetary policy loose, while the Fed will be looking to raise rates steadily. That makes parity between the euro and dollar a real possibility.
Subaru Is Now Building Cars That Avoid Crashes, No Hands Necessary
We have reached a new phase in automotive safety. For several decades, safety features have centered on reducing the chance of serious injury or death in a crash. Things like airbags, anti-lock brakes, and crumple zones assume collisions are inevitable. Now we're on the cusp of dramatically reducing that probability.
Subaru has added this amazing technology called EyeSight to its cars. Cameras mounted near the top of the car's windshield watch for approaching obstacles and warn the driver. If the driver doesn't respond, the car stops itself.
The Subaru Legacy and Outback equipped with EyeSight both earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's top crash-avoidance rating recently, but here's the game-changing part: the IIHS—the same agency that helped make crash test dummies famous—is now testing crash avoidance.
That's big, and here's why: If enough automakers succeed at designing cars that can successfully, and autonomously, avoid a collision, accident rates will fall, and eventually so will insurance premiums.
But there's another upside. Crash-avoidance technology is also helping steer the auto industry toward self-driving vehicles. These safety features use strategically mounted cameras and sensors to help the vehicle interact with its surroundings.
We now have cars that can tell you when you're drifting into another lane, and they can tell you whether another car is in your blind spot. Many have active cruise control, which monitors the distance between you and the vehicle up ahead.
All of these are precursors to vehicles that will eventually drive themselves. Mercedes is nailing this with the new S-Class. And it's not just passenger cars that are benefiting from this technology.
Now that the IIHS is ranking vehicles for how well they avoid crashes, we can expect more automakers to bring this technology to market and to eventually see our roads become a much safer place.
The Russian Economy's Screwed, So Putin Is Taking a Pay Cut
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed three new decrees into law that will slash government salaries—including his own and that of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev—by 10 percent starting on May 1 of this year. The government has also announced plans to cut the number of government officials by 5 percent to 20 percent.
The measures are part of the government's emergency plan to address collapsing revenues due to the fall in global oil prices and economic sanctions imposed on the country. Crude oil is trading at about $60 a barrel, but the federal budget was based on oil prices of $100 a barrel, leaving a big black hole in the state's finances that needs to be plugged.
Putin is unlikely to be fazed by the erosion of his take-home pay. As he told members of the press during his annual Q&A session in December: "Frankly, I don't even know my own salary — they just give it to me, and I put it away in my account."
Others in his administration, however, may be less sanguine about the cuts. Especially as they could represent the beginning of a wider program to scale back the country's public-sector workforce in response to the country's economic woes.
The news comes a week after Russian finance minister Anton Siluanov asked parliament to approve spending 3.2 trillion rubles (£34 billion, $51 billion) from the Reserve Fund, one of Russia's sovereign wealth funds, as part of his so-called anti-crisis plan. That figure is more than half of the value of the fund and well in excess of the 500 billion rubles that the government had initially planned to draw down.
The moves suggest the state is still struggling under the weight of sanctions and low oil prices. Inflation in the country rose to 16.7 percent in February, a rate of price increases not seen for over a decade, as the weaker ruble and self-imposed sanctions on Western imports continued to drive up consumer prices. Russians are expected to have to spend half of their salaries just on food in 2015.
The International Monetary Fund forecasts that Russia's economy is set to contract by 3 percent this year and 1 percent in 2016. Many of these forecasts, however, relied on the assumption that sanctions over Russia's involvement in the ongoing Ukraine crisis would be eased off over the next few months—a prospect that is far from guaranteed.
Yet as the Russian government waits to see whether the latest cease-fire agreement between Kiev and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine holds, the country's domestic economy continues to suffer. On Friday, Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of the state-owned gas behemoth, asked the government for 198 billion rubles in financial aid following similar requests from Rosneft, the country's largest oil company.
Siluanov warned that the pain these companies were suffering may worsen before improving. He told the government that the oil price could still drop, according to The Wall Street Journal.
"It is worth noting the remaining risks on the oil market," he said, "where supply keeps on exceeding demand and oil inventories are growing fast."
Kroger Is Coming After Whole Foods in the Fancy Quinoa Business
Whole Foods and Trader Joe's are often praised for reinventing the grocery business. But Kroger is thriving in a difficult market for grocery stores.
The supermarket chain has reported positive comparable-store sales for 45 straight quarters. Kroger is also expected to surpass Whole Foods Market within two years and become the nation's top seller of organic and natural food, according to a recent report by JPMorgan Chase.
The chain is renowned for excellent its customer service, loyalty program, and extensive selection, Stephen Ward, commercial director of the research and consulting firm Conlumino, said in a note to clients.
Much like Costco and Aldi, Kroger mainly offers private-label products, keeping prices low. The retailer's "strategy of offering more specialty and organic food is helping it overtake other chains despite an industry-wide trend away from supermarkets," JPMorgan analysts write.
Traditional supermarkets have been losing market share to high-end grocers, warehouse chains, and dollar stores because customers are seeking either specialty assortments or great value, according to a recent report by the real estate investment firm JLL. "Millennials and Boomers alike are focusing more on healthy eating choices and creatively prepared meals," the analysts write.
Alternative retailers are taking market share from grocery stores. Selling more organic food will attract high-end customers and help drive profits at Kroger, according to JPMorgan.
Kroger, which has more than 2,000 locations, could also take potential customers from Whole Foods. Whole Foods has 411 locations but continues to expand into new markets.
Kroger has been stepping up sales of organic food. In addition to offering more organic food, Kroger is expanding into affluent markets in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
Virginia’s Sweet Briar College Has a $94 Million Endowment. Why Is It Closing?
A women's liberal arts college in Virginia announced Tuesday that the spring 2015 semester would be its last—even though the school still has a $94 million endowment.
Sweet Briar College, located near Lynchburg, Virginia, will close "as a result of insurmountable financial challenges," the school said in a press release.*
Sweet Briar administrators cited several trends that informed the decision to close, including the declining number of female students interested in women-only colleges and the dwindling number of students overall interested in small, rural liberal arts colleges.
Last year, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that small, private U.S. colleges were in a "death spiral" in light of dropping enrollment rates. This decline comes amid competition from cheaper online colleges and community colleges, which are enticing to students in a job market that's weaker than it once was.
Several colleges similar to Sweet Briar have recently made changes to survive financially, according to Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed. But each choice has come with its own trade-offs. Jaschik highlights two other women's colleges in Virginia:
Mary Baldwin College has embarked on a plan to preserve its identity as a residential undergraduate liberal arts college by creating new colleges of education and health professions. College leaders say this approach will make the women's residential college financially sustainable, but many professors fear that the institution's liberal arts ideals are being compromised.
Randolph-Macon Woman's College, meanwhile, renamed itself Randolph College and in 2007 started enrolling men. As has been the case at many women's colleges making that decision, some alumnae objected.
Randolph College's endowment is more than $125 million.
According to the Sweet Briar statement, "In March 2014, the College began a strategic planning initiative to examine opportunities for Sweet Briar to attract and retain a larger number of qualified students and determine if any fundraising possibilities might exist to support these opportunities. Unfortunately, the planning initiative did not yield any viable paths forward because of financial constraints."
Speaking with IHE, Sweet Briar College President James F. Jones Jr. lamented the closing of the college as a part of a broader change in "the diversity of American higher education."
"The landscape is changing and becoming more vanilla," Jones said.
As Jaschik notes, Sweet Briar's closing is not unique, especially given the financial burdens many schools have faced since 2008. But, Jaschik writes, "the move is unusual in that Sweet Briar still has a $94 million endowment, regional accreditation and some well-respected programs."
Shutting the school now—as opposed to when Sweet Briar runs out of funds—will allow the college to offer help to its students and faculty as they transition out after the semester.
"We have moral and legal obligations to our students and faculties and to our staff and to our alumnae. If you take up this decision too late, you won't be able to meet those obligations," Sweet Briar College board of directors chairman Paul G. Rice told IHE.
Here's how Sweet Briar plans to offer support, according to IHE:
While all employees will lose their jobs, the college hopes to offer severance and other support. Students (including those accepted for enrollment in the fall) will receive help transferring. This semester will be the last one at the college, but it will remain officially open through the summer so that students can earn credit elsewhere and transfer it back to Sweet Briar to leave either with degrees or more credit toward degrees.
Sweet Briar announced on its Facebook page that it has already expedited transfer arrangements with four local colleges.
*Correction, March 4, 2015: This article originally misspelled Lynchburg, Virginia.
Ford's Latest Experiment Is a Smartbike That Connects to iPhones
Ford's big news at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year was its connected bicycle experiment.
Yes: A car company, building a pushbike.
The plans center around two foldable bikes: the MoDe:Me, built in partnership with manufacturer Dahon, which is designed for urban commuters to zip through city traffic; and the MoDe:Pro, designed in-house, and intended for commercial use by delivery drivers, electricians, and so on.
Both work with a prototype iPhone 6 app called the MoDe:Link, which enables the bike to offer functions such as: vibrating navigation on the handlebars to let the rider know when to turn; "smart routing" which also builds in public transport information, weather, and charging station locations; a sensor that automatically fires up the electric pedal assistance when a rider's heart rate reaches a certain level; and compatibility with Ford's SYNC system when the e-bike is stowed in a car.
They're neat products and you can immediately see how useful they would be for people who want to zip around the city in as little time as possible. But still: Why Ford?
Ford's vice president of research and advanced engineering, Ken Washington, told Business Insider it builds into the company's wider "Smart Mobility Plan," launched at CES last month, which has seen the company commit to launching 25 experiments this year in the areas of connectivity, mobility, the customer experience, autonomous vehicles, and big data. He added that Ford is "no longer counting" how many experiments it is running but instead wants to spark a culture of innovation and experimentation within the company.
It's a bit like Google's famous "moon shots"—not all of these will become consumer products—but the initiative offers the company the chance to think about the idea of mobility beyond its day-to-day car-related business challenges.
The bike experiment isn't just a novelty prototype: It's also a way to collect data in a way Ford hasn't done before, gathering research about how bikes are used in urban areas through a sensor box on the frame. A Ford representative on its Mobile World Congress stand told Business Insider he did not know of any other company—bicycle manufacturers or automakers—that are conducting this kind of experiment right now.
Snapchat’s Ambitious Plan to Become More Powerful Than TV
The most popular TV show of fall 2014 was NBC's broadcast of Sunday Night Football. It averaged 21 million viewers per week. The strongest cable show was AMC's The Walking Dead. Its midseason finale, in November, reached 14.8 million people. Big numbers, right? Try this one: 24.79 million.
That is the number of people who, on the evening of Jan. 26, and during the next 24 hours, watched a video broadcast on their phones depicting the sights and sounds of New York's “Snowpocalypse.” Unlike Sunday Night Football and The Walking Dead, the camera operators for the Snowpocalpyse broadcast were not professionals. They were mostly teens or adults in their 20s, shooting videos and photos with their phones, often photos and videos of their faces. They were Snapchat users.
The Two Women Behind The Dress Definitively Reveal Its Color
Two women are behind the viral dress that has everyone confused. Here's what they told us.
In a telephone conversation with Business Insider on Thursday evening, McNeill explained that the picture was a dress was worn to her friends' wedding. In the photo, some people see the dress as white and gold while others see it as blue and black.
The dress was worn by the bride's mother. McNeill and her friends first realized there was something different about the dress when the mother sent her daughter the now-famous photo.
"What happened was two of my close friends were actually getting married and the mother of the bride took a photo of the dress to send to her daughter," McNeill explained. "When my friend showed the dress to her fiancee, they disagreed on the color."
The bride then posted the picture on Facebook and her friends continued to debate the color of the dress.
"All of our friends disagreed," McNeill said.
After seeing the Facebook thread, McNeill decided to share the picture on a fan page she has on Tumblr dedicated to a woman named Sarah Weichel. That's where the dress went viral.
Weichel is a talent manager who represents several YouTubers including Hannah Hart.
Weichel told Business Insider her phone began blowing up on Thursday after McNeill's post started going viral.
"The crazy thing is, I actually have nothing to do with the post. It's literally just a fan account of me, so my name and my photos are all over the account," Weichel said. "I actually don't have anything to do with it. ... But I have been getting a ton of phone calls and emails tonight."
The situation was even weirder for Weichel because her client, Hart, was just announced as the star of a new television series on Thursday.
"Between that announcement and the dress thing my phone has been going crazy with congratulations and 'What the hell is happening?'" Weichel said.
For Weichel, there's no question about what color the dress is.
"Black and blue of course!" she said.
Weichel put Business Insider in touch with McNeill who said one of the oddest parts of the experience has been watching celebrities share her picture.
"I thought my followers on Tumblr would maybe have a good reaction, but I never would have considered that Taylor Swift and Mindy Kaling would be tweeting about it," McNeill said.
Out of all the celebrities who became interested in her post, McNeill would like to meet Swift.
"Oh my god," she said when we asked about Swift. "That would be something."
McNeill plays guitar and sings in a band named Canach that plays what she described as "traditional Scottish folky music." Her band played at the wedding. She actually saw the dress and told us definitively what color it really is.
"I got to the wedding and the mother was wearing the dress," McNeill said. "Obviously it was blue and black."