Next week I finish my 16th year teaching journalism part-time to college students. It's been especially tough this year not because the students aren't smart or interesting or hardworking. No, it's been tough because for the first time in all these years I have no idea what the future holds for those students who want to become reporters or editors for newspapers, television stations, radio or web sites.

Between the bad economy and a faltering business model for newspapers and to some extent television, it is difficult to know if there will be any jobs for these eager young students. Yet they keep signing up for classes and keep producing good stories. Since it's a liberal arts college (Macalester), there isn't a journalism major. These students are philosophy or political science or econ or humanities and media studies majors. Maybe they think they can fall back on their majors or go to grad school if the journalism thing doesn't work out.

Or maybe they are just curious about the world, like to ask questions, like to write and want to make a difference in their community. Maybe they think that those factors and a young person's ability to use all the tools of the Internet will help them get by. Maybe career concerns don't matter that much when you're 18 or 19.

I've tried to expose them to some of the best journalists in the Twin Cities and, through an MPR Broadcast Journalist Series lecture program, some of the best in the country. They've visited newsrooms, both commercial and public broadcasting, and the state Capitol. They've tackled some thorny ethical issues, discussed the changing role of journalism, designed public affairs shows and written many news stories.

In my two classes, I have students from China, Russia, India, Jamaica, as well as Milwaukee, Seattle and San Francisco. It's  rewarding when some of your international students, for whom English is a second language, write some of the best stories. They also help expand the discussion about what journalism is like or should be like in their countries.

In class today, we talked about how there are so many important international stories as well as so many important local stories at a time when there are fewer journalists and fewer resources to cover them.

Yet the students did not seem deterred. Here's hoping that some of these energetic and enthusiastic young journalists figure out a way to ply their craft  whether it's in New Delhi or New Jersey or New Richmond. I've enjoyed them immensely and I hope to read or watch their pieces in the years ahead.

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