The National Media Writing Faculty Study

By Massé, Mark; Popovich, Mark | Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, Autumn 2004 | Go to article overview

The National Media Writing Faculty Study


Massé, Mark, Popovich, Mark, Journalism & Mass Communication Educator


One of the objectives of this national media writing faculty study was to compile a contemporary profile of the typical U.S. journalism writing educator. This profile includes demographic data and information on pedagogical attitudes, practices, and resources. A second, more important objective was to search for evidence of an evolving and more integrated paradigm in the teaching of media writing by trying to ascertain whether current media writing instructors consider themselves to be more traditional or progressive in their teaching styles. Having journalism writing instructors indicate their teaching preferences would give some indication of the status and acceptance of more progressive teaching orientations (e.g., writing as process) that were introduced into journalism education literature in the 1980s.

Introduction

Like their counterparts in English departments nationwide, U.S. journalism scholars have long sought to establish a body of knowledge specific to the teaching of writing in journalism. Such research arguably begins with identifying contemporary attitudes and practices of journalism and media writing faculty in the United States. This inquiry includes an examination of the provalence of traditional or writing as product teaching, where the instructor serves primarily as an editor, compared with the use of progressive pedagogy or writing as process, where the instructor serves more as a coach with his or her students.

Innovative educators approach journalistic writing as a blend of product and process approaches, combining creative thinking strategies to bolster performance with strict language skills instruction and emphasis on proper mechanics. In these classrooms, instruction unites craft and creativity in the teaching of journalistic/media writing. In those; classrooms, students learn to think as writers and gain confidence in their creativity, while recognizing and employing the principles and techniques required by their professional craft.

Elbow1 discussed the two conflicting mentalities needed for good teaching, which stem from the two conflicting obligations inherent in the job: an obligation to nurture creativity in students and an obligation to knowledge and society (e.g., upholding professional standards).

The challenge for journalism educators is to integrate the best of writing as product and process in their instruction. The challenge for journalism researchers is to determine where these approaches are being successfully implemented. That search for a new, more integrated paradigm in the teaching of media writing was the rationale for a comprehensive national study conducted by the researchers in spring 2002.

This comprehensive survey of journalism educator attitudes toward the teaching of writing was commissioned as part of a three-year grant to Ball State University's Department of Journalism by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Literature Review: English Composition Studies

Throughout much of the twentieth century a product- or skills-oriented approach was the dominant model in the teaching of writing. This traditional teaching style concentrated on the end result of the composing process. The quality of the finished product and its clarity, coherence, and correctness were the prescriptive standards in writing instruction.

In the 1970s composition scholars began exploring alternative pedagogical methods in the writing classroom. This inquiry into the practices of students focused on the writing process. Emig2 used protocol analysis to study the composing process of a group of twelfth-graders and discovered that their writing was recursive, not linear. They developed their ideas intuitively, not methodically, and proceeded through a writing assignment by moving back and forth between various stages (e.g., planning, writing, revising) of the writing process. Murray3 challenged conventional wisdom, suggesting that educators needed to initiate students into the process of discovery through language.

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