Journalism Schools: Surviving or Thriving? Students Need More Than Note-Taking Skills to Enter News Media Today

Article excerpt

Forget the power of the pen.

The cornerstone of a journalism education these days is in the power of the keystroke--or video recorder.

Writing, research, and editing may have been the bread and butter of J-school curriculums back in the day, but schools are now knocking themselves out to top one another with diverse offerings in computer technology, interactive media, and new business models.

J-school guerilla tactics include getting student work exposed, interactively, at a rate never before experienced--and transforming good, solid citizens whose only goal was to tell good stories into semi-geek techies who can wend their way around the World Wide Web with aplomb--a fusing of right brain and left brain. Some journalism schools are even joining forces with their universities' computer science departments. Two primary goals of all these innovations: to keep journalists marketable in a world where traditional outlets are dwindling quickly, and to keep J-schools in the black.

NEW YORK UNIVERSITY

In an industry that's never been famous for having a surplus of job openings, undergrads in NYU s journalism department are wisely required to be double majors. Like many of the new academic offerings, this requirement has been in existence for less than 10 years--fitting the time frame of the shrinking magazine and newspaper industry. "A minor will not get you to the most intensive courses of another discipline," said Professor Brooke Kroeger, director of NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. Journalism requires the know-how to "mine the body of knowledge that exists within other disciplines," she said.

Kroeger also directs the Global and Joint Program Studies, known as "Glo-jo." She vets applicants from across the globe for a joint degree: one in journalism and one from a selection of eight "something-larger-than-myself" degrees, such as Near East Studies, Asian Studies, or Religious Studies. Instituted in 2007, Glo-jo had 100 applicants compete for the 15 available slots in the fall 2011 class.

And in a nod to the inevitable, the university plans to implement a Computational and Digital track for journalism undergrads--five courses in computer science and one in journalism--scheduled to begin in the coming year. "I'm pretty bullish about it," Kroeger said.

NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen said the new dual-degree is an attempt to meet demand. "People from the news industry, especially in New York, call us, write us all the time asking if we can recommend people with programming skills to work in their newsroom. So this is a response to that and to the fact that journalism today requires more creativity with technology."

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Rosen directs Studio 20, a three-semester, projectbased program for grad students. He said the program "emerged out of my frustration with the boot camp model of journalism school." Inspired by the studio classes common in arts programs, Studio 20 has students working on projects with sophisticated media partners (The Economist, ProPublica) "to build things, invent things, push the practice forward while getting a solid grounding in the fundamentals of journalism," Rosen said. Media celebrities also regularly address classes.

The Local East Village blog, which began last September, is one of the department's cutting-edge projects incubated by Studio 20. The school partners with The New York Times, which provides them with space for and assistance with an interactive website covering New York City's East Village (EastVillage.TheLocal.NYTimes.com). Student work is currently published on the site, and members of the community submit story ideas and tips, and soon will be able to submit whole articles for publication if their work passes muster with the students and the Times.

Rosen sees The Local East Village as an educational amalgam: "Teaching and doing; the news industry and the university; big city journalism--because it's The New York Times--and neighborhood journalism--because it's just about the East Village. …