Without knowing legal and ethical requirements we are really only citizen journalists with a degree
Very interesting thoughts Jake, and kudos for having the courage to speak out about something you are obviously passionate about.
I do agree that omitting legal and ethical classes in the first year is a concern, particularly given how we have so foolhardily followed the US, and now sue at the slightest offence — especially those in public office.
Also as you pointed out, given the dramatic changes within the industry over recent years, it is far more likely than in the past, that graduates will have to assume more individual responsibility for their own work. Which will no doubt include legal and ethical concerns that would historically be checked by someone else.
One thing you did not mention though is that although as journalists we are relied upon to convey information to the public, we as a profession are not looked upon very favorably by those we are trying to inform. Without a solid knowledge of our legal and ethical obligations, how can future journalist possibly hope to turn this around.
I also recall being told in that class about Bob Hawke showing people through his home, telling them the pool was paid for by suing this paper for defamation, while the extension was paid for by another defamation case against another paper, and so on. This I believe is a very pertinent story that every aspiring journalist should know.
No, it was not an exciting class, but from my point of view an invaluable one that should not be omitted from any journalism course.