Professionalism Can't Be Overemphasized: Teach Standards, Values, Ethics, and Skills

By Gleason, Tim | The Masthead, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview
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Professionalism Can't Be Overemphasized: Teach Standards, Values, Ethics, and Skills


Gleason, Tim, The Masthead


Are aspiring journalists better-served by majoring in journalism or by seeking a "more traditional liberal arts education" in college? The question asked last summer on the National Conference of Editorial Writers listserv sets up a false dichotomy. Journalism majors at the best journalism programs in the United States receive a strong liberal arts education and superior professional education, as well as a solid grounding in the values and practices of the profession.

The importance of teaching professional ethics and practice cannot be over-emphasized. A primary mission of journalism education is to teach and do research about the role of journalism in a democratic society. Bob Giles, director of the Neiman Center at Harvard University, has called for "a renewed dedication to teaching about the standards, values, and theories of journalism."

In his 2003 Ruhl Lecture at the University of Oregon, Tom Rosenstiel, vice chair of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, told us that we must do a better job of understanding and articulating the "responsibilities and principles" that define journalism as a profession.

Journalism programs are the only place on most university campuses where faculty who have both experience in industry practice and academic credentials are teaching students how to be good journalists, and why professional values matter.

Educating journalists begins with a broad foundation in the arts and sciences. Students attending a journalism program accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, our national accrediting body, will take more than half of their classes in the liberal arts.

An undergraduate student in the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication takes a minimum of sixty-five percent of the total credits required for graduation outside the school. Courses in English, history, and economics and in at least three other liberal arts and sciences subject areas are required. Students are encouraged to complete a second major or a minor in the arts and sciences, business, design, or other related majors.

Journalism courses are structured to give students the specific knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the newsroom. The curriculum integrates the teaching of journalistic skills with courses such as law, ethics, economics, and media management. We place great emphasis on teaching a set of core literacy in writing, visual communication, information gathering, and critical thinking. And our commitment to teaching competency in writing goes beyond professional writing courses to all courses in the school.

No other major has as strong an emphasis on the craft of reporting, writing, and editing, and on telling stories with words, pictures, and design.

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