In our Winter 2006 issue, Goodbye Gutenberg, journalists described the ways in which digital technology affects their work, and adjustments being made within newsrooms were front and center. What wasn’t told, however, was how those who want to be journalists are being educated and trained to take on vastly different roles than those once assumed—or studied about—by faculty now teaching them. In this issue journalism educators write about what is happening—and what needs to happen—in classrooms to prepare future journalists for the demands of the digital age.
Dianne Lynch, who will become dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley in January, sees in students entering college that “a childhood lived as much online as off” has given them the necessary building blocks “to be journalists in a digital age.” She writes about a pilot project of “innovation incubators” at seven journalism schools where ideas generated by students and faculty mentors will be transferred “from the academy to a news industry.” In doing this, she says, “we’ll have reexamined the very nature of journalism education in a participatory media culture.”
At Kent State University, Karl Idsvoog, an assistant professor of journalism, writes that the j-school recently moved into “a new building with wireless Internet, high-speed video servers, and a converged newsroom.” Yet the long-standing “imbalance of university requirements vs. faculty relevance [that] has always been a part of journalism school’s uneasy fit inside the academy” continues to pose the greatest challenge. In this digital era, he argues, “the fit isn’t just uneasy, it’s untenable.” As former Newsday Editor Howard Schneider went about designing a new approach to teaching journalism as the incoming dean of the School of Journalism at Stony Brook University, he realized that it would not be enough to focus academically on only those who want to become journalists. His goal—made possible with a News Literacy class open to all students—is to also educate consumers of news to “differentiate between raw, unmediated information coursing through the Internet and independent, verified journalism.” Kim Pearson, an associate professor of English and interactive media at The College of New Jersey, also addresses this issue of how best to “promote news literacy among children who spend increasing amounts of their time finding and sharing information online.” She offers suggestions of ways to engage middle- and high-school students through such groundbreaking approaches as the use of “database-driven presentations” in place of hard-news storytelling.
With a new content management system in place, Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, describes the ripple effect that technological change is having as class-based Web sites proliferate. “As much as we groan at budget time over how heavily we are investing in technology,” Lemann writes, “we can afford to get ourselves much closer to professional levels of production on the Web than we can in the print or broadcast media.” As dean of the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, which opened in the fall of 2006, Stephen Shepard explains why students “choose a media track—print, broadcast or interactive” on which to focus, and content specialties are taught, while all students are “required to do assignments across media platforms.” Jean Folkerts, dean of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Journalism, seeks out alumni “to learn what graduating students need to know.” As changes in teaching respond to what’s taking place on the Web and in newsrooms, Folkerts is mindful that “establishing trust with readers and viewers is as important in digital journalism as it was before the telegraph was invented.”
After 13 years as an editor at The New York Times, the syllabus Mark J. Prendergast prepared for his journalism students at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University “overlaid traditional journalistic values onto new-media realities of the sort I had encountered on the Times Continuous News Desk, a pioneering bridge between the paper’s newsroom and its Web site.” Photographer Lester Sloan looks at lessons of visual storytelling being taught in journalism schools as he contemplates the changing demands that digital media place on photojournalists. “One inescapable challenge visual journalists will have is to simply keep up with not only the rapidly changing tools of their craft but also the demands of the industry,” he writes. In an article adapted from his book “The Big Picture: Why Democracies Need Journalistic Excellence,” Jeffrey Scheuer suggests that “it will require a paradigm shift to see journalism and education as tap-roots of the same democratic tree and part of an information environment cohabited by citizens, journalists and scholars. It will mean relaxing the boundaries, and perhaps the very definitions, of academic and journalistic institutions.”
When Lou Ureneck, chairman of the journalism department at Boston University, talked with a colleague from the economics department about how journalism is taught, he emphasized not the new technologies but the “journalistic value system” with idealism and skepticism at its core. These values and others, he writes, “are what make someone a good journalist, and they are what lift this work above the trivial.” Mike McKean, who is department chair of the convergence journalism faculty at the Missouri School of Journalism, begins with the declaration that “convergence journalism, as we teach it at Missouri, is more about new attitudes than new skills.” He includes among these attitudes the “need to be humble in the face of overwhelming social changes made possible by digital media.” Jerome Aumente, professor emeritus at Rutgers, contends that “the key word that encompasses these changes in the classroom is ‘interdisciplinary.’” Given his experience at Rutgers with instituting a multidisciplinary approach, Aumente talks about the value of such an integrated effort in teaching journalism in a time of digital change.
Guillermo Franco, content manager of new media at Casa Editorial El Tiempo and a professor in postgraduate journalism programs in Bogota, Colombia, worries that at a time when online journalism is so prevalent, too many Latin American journalism schools employ the “strategy of using patches, of adding an elective here and an elective there.” “Instead,” he argues, “entire programs must be completely redesigned” so that the next generation won’t be reminded “of how bonded we are to the old way of doing things.” Michele McLellan and Tim Porter, coauthors of “News, Improved: How America’s Newsrooms Are Learning to Change,” point out that “only a third of news organizations increased their training budgets in the past five years …. Yet nine in 10 journalists say they need more training and nine in 10 news executives agree.” They also highlight examples of news organizations in which newsroom training has been implemented and the impact these initiatives have had.