The GSP doesn’t measure journalistic skills

Right now, the GSP does little more than deter students, who perhaps harbor strong journalistic principles — a commitment to integrity, for instance—from pursuing important careers.

by Anna Fiorino, Contributor

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Journalism and media studies pre-majors have three attempts to pass the Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation test.

According to the School of Journalism and Media Studies, “The Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation (GSP) test is a way to determine whether students in the School of Journalism & Media Studies (JMS) at San Diego State University (SDSU) have sufficient command of English to indicate probable success in the curriculum and in related careers.” 

The “Testing Services” webpage suggests otherwise:

Publish your material under the pretense of authority and expertise, and errors can pass unnoticed through several levels of review.

A question for you, SDSU:

A. Gramer

B. Grammar

C. Gramar

D. Grammer

One question on the exam listed the following as answer choice: (C) ther comma after home should be replaced with a semicolon. 

Are typos like “grammer” and “ther” silly oversights, or do they undermine the test’s purpose?

One thing is for certain. Proper grammar, spelling and punctuation are important for your brand’s reputation. 

Are you credible? 

Are you reliable? 

Although errors are inevitable (we are all human, after all), there is little room for them. 

Especially if you’re a university with a renowned journalism program administering a Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation test.

The high GSP failure rate, on the other hand, has its roots in secondary institutions. 

Are high schools fostering skills that produce good future journalists? 

If not, is SDSU responding to this failure appropriately? 

(It’s hard to catch up in a few months what years of high school was supposed to prepare you for.) 

America values its free press, but is this value reflected in our education system?

On another note, it is debatable whether good grammar, spelling and punctuation is the most important indication of success across the journalism field—PR, advertising, media studies, journalism.

For instance, the Dow Jones News Fund administers journalism tests for their internship program. 

These internships range from data journalism to editing to digital media. 

In addition to a “Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation” portion, each includes a current events and geography section. 

This suggests that in order for a journalist to be able to seek truth and report it, he or she must be media literate and globally aware.

Likewise, in order for a publicist to act as a responsible advocate or for an advertiser to produce ethical content, he or she must be equipped with basic knowledge to make informed decisions.

Good journalism is the bedrock of our democracy. 

Right now, the GSP does little more than deter students, who perhaps harbor strong journalistic principles — a commitment to integrity, for instance—from pursuing important careers.

All that aside, here’s the reality: most adults struggle to spell some words, like “grammar” or “metamorphosis.” 

Many adults will have to double check if it’s “who” or “whom.”

With instantly accessible digital resources (spellcheck, grammar websites and proofreading services) have come a permissible abrogation of personal understandings of obscure hyphen rules, possessive-gerund usage and trickier pronoun-antecedent agreement.

At the end of the day—and this is far more important than having the GSP-determined “command of the English Language”—care enough to edit your work, have others review your work, and ask if you’re not sure.

The answer is B, by the way.

Anna Fiorino is a junior studying journalism.

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