As television and print news outlets increasingly form partnerships with each other to gain larger audiences, journalism educators are cross-training more students. At a growing number of journalism schools across the country students are not only learning a specific craft such as newspapering or TV broadcasting, but they're also getting opportunities to tell stories in other ways.
"We want students to be excellent in their ability to produce for one medium, but to be conversant in many media," says Rich Gordon, associate professor and chairman of the new media program at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.
"Conceptually, our faculty think students need to be conversant in print, and in TV and in new media. The question is, how to incorporate multiple forms of media into the curriculum or whether to add new requirements?"
Medill faculty are in the middle of an extensive curriculum review and developing a strategic process that includes, but isn't limited to, addressing such questions.
At the University of Missouri, journalism educators also have been grappling with these issues. Consequently, the school is poised to start offering a "media convergence" sequence as early as the 2005 fall semester. It will mark the first time in more than 50 years that the nationally renowned school adds a new area of emphasis. "Media convergence will create a whole new outlet for our students without overbearing the existing ones," says Brian Brooks, associate dean for journalism's undergraduate studies and administration.
Missouri's faculty are still developing the courses, but Brooks envisions the curriculum including basic newswriting for the print media and Internet; audio-visual skills; and practical experience that simulates on-the-job experience. Online journalism courses will shift to the media convergence sequence.
While everything will be housed initially in existing facilities, plans call for convergence operations to move into a new campus institute in 2007. Funded by a foundation grant, institute plans call for a media convergence news facility, a technology demonstration center, research lab and faculty offices. It will allow the online operations of the Columbia Missourian newspaper and KOMU-TV station to be clustered there as well, Brooks says.
Officials at the historically Black Florida A&M University are considering adding an in-depth reporting class, says Dr. James Hawkins, dean of the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication there. Such a class would incorporate not only writing, but also storytelling elements such as audio, streaming video, and computer-assisted reporting and technology. "We want to encourage producing more than just 200-word stories and calling it a day," Hawkins says.
LESS COMPETITION, MORE COOPERATION
Driving the curriculum changes are industry hiring trends as well as news outlets setting aside--sometimes their--traditional competitiveness to boost ratings and readership.
Missouri's Brooks says a few recruiters specifically ask for "graduates who can write a Super Bowl piece for the newspaper but also do a standup piece on camera for TV." In those cases, Brooks says, one company typically owns more than one media property in a local market.
Although the Federal Communications Commission currently bans such monopolies, some exceptions exist and have been grandfathered under the law.
The Tampa Tribune in Florida, for instance, and TV station WFLA not only occupy the same building, but news executives of both outlets have merged their daily meetings so that each side knows what the other is working on. Although the practice has essentially eliminated either one "scooping" the other for news, the co-mingling of resources has let the paper "make a deeper, broader footprint among the community," says Larry Fletcher, the Tribune's deputy managing editor.
Some print reporters do occasional on-air pieces, even though most Tribune staffers didn't learn broadcast skills in college. …