It’s All About Direction When It Comes to Campus Tours

tour guide

The New York Times is a journalistic institution, arguably the best newspaper in the world. So to see it scraping at the bottom of the barrel for stories – especially in the always over-hyped Education section – is disconcerting, to say the very least.

The Times recently published an article about colleges remaking the college tour. You know, rattling off facts and figures while walking backward (and skillfully avoiding tree root death-traps). However, the article focuses not so much on the content of the tours as the way the tour guides walk – backwards, as is traditional, or forward, the direction in which many colleges are now heading (no pun intended).

The article does explain how colleges are abandoning the fact-based approach in favor of anecdotes and personal experiences, but the bulk of the story is about the merits of walking forward on a college tour versus walking backwards. Isn’t this the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever read (well, besides the Times’s investigative report on hugging)?

According to Jacques Steinberg, the author of this article and a well-known higher education guru, “Driving the overhaul of the campus tour is colleges’ desire to provide visitors a more natural, spontaneous and, ideally, engaging experience — and to relieve mothers…of the nagging worry that their guide might…fall backward over a bicycle rack.” If the article had focused on the first part of that statement, it would be a unique angle on a rite of passage we all went through during our junior and senior years of high school. But Steinberg only skims the top of that issue and instead emphasizes the walking aspect of the tour.

Like the tour guide’s walk is what I assessed the most when I looked at schools!

When I was looking at colleges, a lot of things went through my mind. How accessible are the professors? How is the campus life on the weekends? How’s the food? The last thing on my mind, for sure, was the direction in which the tour guide walked.

Steinberg notes that the number of students visiting Hendrix College in Arkansas has increased greatly since 2006, and the number of applicants to the school has also gone up. But how can you attribute that to the changes made to the tour? Isn’t it possible that Hendrix is just feeling the effects of the upward trend that has affected numerous schools across the nation? My university received 22% more applications this year than it did last year, but the tour guides walk backwards!

The Times must really be desperate for news, because now it is resorting to making up news. I may be a lowly journalism student, but my advice is to stick with that you’re good at: reporting the news in the best possible way rather than creating it. In college tour lingo, I’m guessing that translates to moving forward as opposed to moving backward.

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