Posts Tagged ‘Journalism Education’

A new editorial in The Marquette Tribune raises concerns about recent changes to the Marquette University journalism program, aligning them with the media industry’s larger perceived “dumbing-down.”  Among other critiques, editors cite an apparent over-emphasis on teaching students superficial self-promotion techniques, possibly at the expense of needed journalism principles.

As the piece (hat tip Poynter’s Julie Moos)– headlined “A Call for a Conversation About the Journalism Curriculum“– notes, “Courses that once focused on the nuances of news writing and beat reporting now teach students how to write the most gripping cover letter and create the perfectly polished LinkedIn profile. We were once taught to prioritize context, fairness, and critical thinking. Now, re-tweets, pageviews and self-promotion come before all else.  We do not presume to grade the curriculum’s effectiveness here; that must be done, in time, by administrators and faculty members. We do, however, recognize frustrations among students that cannot be ignored.”

The Tribune’s serious editorial is coupled with a satirical smackdown of the j-program online.  The current top post on the paper’s Onion-like blog The Turnip outlines a new faux assignment for Marquette j-students: live-tweeting their sleep cycles.  As an imaginary professor is quoted declaring, “We are doing something revolutionary.  Most, if not all, live-tweeting up until this point has been during consciousness. We are going a step further.”

Within the post, satirical plans are also unveiled regarding Twitter’s takeover of the Tribune itself– to be renamed the Twibune, since it will “publish its articles and columns purely as tweets.”  The conclusion: “Journalism professors could not be reached for comment when asked whether life itself should be replaced by Twitter, as they appeared to be too busy live-tweeting the question asked to contemplate an answer.”

Yowzer.  Let the conversation begin.

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Like many journalism educators, I’m heading this week to St. Louis for the annual Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference.  I’m presenting twice, including at the gathering’s sole college media session.  Below is info on both sessions.  If you find yourself in St. Louis, stop by the Renaissance Grand Hotel to say hi.

Wednesday, August 10th, 3:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.

Session: Issues Facing the Campus Press

Moderating/Presiding: Brian Steffen, Simpson

Covering Hate on Campus: A Case Study, Caley Cook, Allegheny College

Evolving Medium: A College Newspaper Works to Adapt to Changing Readership Habits via Print Design, Multimedia Inclusion, and Online Promotion, Sonya DiPalma and Michael E. Gouge, North Carolina at Asheville

Students 2.0: College Media Moguls who are Changing Journalism and the World (Wide Web), Dan Reimold, Tampa

Credentialing of Campus Media Advisers: Is There a Doctor in the Newsroom?, Carol Terracina_Hartman, Bloomsburg of Pennsylvania and Robert G. Nulph, Lewis University

Friday, August 12th, 1:45 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.

Session: Geeks – The New Journalists

Moderating/Presiding: John Kerezy, Cuyahoga College


Toni Albertson, Mt. San Antonio College (journalism entrepreneurship and self-learning)

Brian Steffen, Simpson College  (“Twitter and the Accidental Journalism Student”)

Mitzi Lewis, Midwestern State (data journalism)

Dan Reimold, Tampa (blog entrepreneurs and content farms)

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The end may be near for print journalism, the professional field and the academic major.  The Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies at UNLV is the latest j-school or program to announce a curricular reshuffle that includes an ink-stained goodbye to the print journalism concentration.

What used to be four tracks (print journalism, broadcast journalism, media studies and integrated marketing communications) now are two (journalism and media studies, and marketing communications).  As the school’s undergraduate coordinator told the Rebel Yell student newspaper: “There was some frustration among students who were looking for jobs after graduating but weren’t getting the jobs because they weren’t fluent in different media like the Internet. Journalists in the real world can’t be burdened by those barriers.  It’s our attempt at making our curriculum more realistic. . . . To turn out traditionalists that are only trained in [Associated Press-style] writing for print is doing students a disservice.”

What do you think? In a news media universe in which print still dominates but possibly not much longer, should print-specific tracks within university j-programs be broadened, reorganized or dropped entirely? I like the words of Greenspun’s director Daniel Stout on this one: “There was a time when journalism was separated into various industries, but today the media environment is converged.”

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Interesting course alert: Reporting on Islam, a 400-level pilot class jointly sponsored by the j-school and Muslim Studies program at Michigan State University. According to a UPI report, it is aimed at “teach[ing] students how to deal with the complexities of reporting on Islam in a post-Sept. 11 world.”

The course syllabus for this past semester explains further: “Students will analyze news stories on Muslims and Islam in the U.S. and international press.  They will be instructed in the complexity of Islam as a religion and the cultural practices of Muslims.  Students will also create content . . . focused on Reporting on Islam and Muslim peoples.  Some content will be based on interviews with scholars, expert journalists, and members of the Muslim community.  Students will also help develop ‘Best Practices in Reporting on Islam and Muslim Peoples.'”

During the fall, students visited a local Islamic Center, heard from relevant guest speakers, and completed news stories of their own, in part by conducting interviews with people via Skype in countries such as Iraq and Iran.  A number of enrollees published their classwork professionally, including a report on the birth of Islam punk rock that landed in the Wall Street Journal and San Francisco Sentinel.

One of the students provided possibly the best summary a class can get: “[The course] definitely made me uncomfortable at times, but honestly, that is how I know it was worthwhile. It helped me experience a part of the world and this country that I never had before.”

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More than 30 students at the University of Minnesota spent the past semester in FLUX. They created a printerrific, Webtastic class project on steroids, documenting the changing nature of the modern American dream via a full-color magazine and accompanying Web site.

As a letter from editor in chief Katie Pelton shares:

If you think of the American Dream, it’s likely your mind will wander to images of the 1950’s Pleasantville- you know, the breadwinner husband, his stay-at-home wife who happily tends to her two and a half children and their tidy house surrounded by a white picket fence. . . . While the concept might conjure images of 1950’s domesticity, it can equally be applied to the Pilgrims and today’s rule-rewriting, tech-savvy millennial generation. It has certainly struck a chord with me, and all of the individual dreamers we’ve encountered while producing this magazine. . . . We all have hopes and goals for the future- not only for our own lives, but also our country. With each generation comes new ideals, and because of the fluctuation of current societal standards, our principles are changing faster than ever.

According to a UM news release, the magazine is divided into four main areas. DEBATE skews political, touching on  “debt, environmental sustainability and diversity.”  LEARN presents pieces on education and the professional world, “posing the question: Is college necessary?”  LIVE screams arts and culture, including a then-and-now fashion spread. And TALK “explores modern communication and the influence technology and relationships have on the American Dream.”  My favorite snippet is a SoundSlides photo montage with audio in the multimedia section that presents young girls’ perspectives on what makes a person beautiful in the contemporary U.S.

Pelton, about the project overall: “Not only did we learn far more from this experience than a textbook could ever teach us, but we professionally produced a quality magazine that will influence people’s lives.”

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During this time of thanks, I want to offer a sincere thank you to the University of Southern California. In early October, USC announced that its Annenberg School for Communication was being renamed the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.

In this era of uber-uncertainty and declining professional prospects within the industry, the school’s name change is a clear sign that universities will fight to keep journalism alive. The school’s dean: “The ‘Fourth Estate’ has been under siege. As one of the premier educational institutions in the United States to offer comprehensive communication, journalism and public relations programs, it is incumbent upon us to step up and publicly support the future of the profession.”

As the prominent journalism educator who passed the announcement my way noted, “While one could say it’s only words, I think it’s a strong signal of enduring values in a rapidly changing world.”

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Journalism education will not only survive but should be embedded into “the very DNA of American higher education,” according to an Ohio State University law professor.

As reported in a new Lantern piece, the prof’s vision of modern j-education includes “train[ing] people from all walks of life to deal with the enormous amount of information available in the digital age.”  A separate Lantern op-ed confirmed, “During a time when the newspaper business is severely struggling, some might find it shocking to hear such a proposition. . . . Although newspapers might be slowly reaching obsolescence, journalism is still just as, if not more, important than ever. The shift toward digital media is certainly modifying the practice of journalism . . . Democracy, essentially, is based on the important principles of equality and freedom. But in order for it to function properly and as it was intended, the people must be informed. The information must be fair and accurate. This is why journalism is so important to American society and why it always will be.”

As enrollment grows (grows!) within journalism schools and departments at universities worldwide- while the mainstream news media simultaneously declines in staff and resources- j-students and educators will undoubtedly play an increasingly influential role in shaping the craft and reporting news that matters NOW. As Atlantic correspondent Peter Osnos blogged, [T]he breadth of what is being offered [at j-schools] is amazing . . . The role of the university is potentially significant in the transformation of news from a primarily market-driven enterprise to recognition of its essential role as a civic asset- like education itself.”

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