Teaching Journalism

By Kelley, Barbara | Communication Research Trends, June 2007 | Go to article overview

Teaching Journalism


Kelley, Barbara, Communication Research Trends


1. Introduction

An Overview of Research on Journalism during a Decade of Change

We face a rapidly changing mediascape that shifts faster than the 24-hour news cycle, often outpacing academic study, the ability to understand journalism, and the ability to teach it. Much of the scholarship, and hallway conversations, of the past has focused on either the failures of journalism itself--most notably with regard to the influence of corporate media--or the "gee whizzery" of new technologies and the wild, wild west that is the blogosphere. I do not dispute the deleterious effects of the former, or the possibilities inherent in the latter two. But while we have been consumed by hand- wringing on one hand and starry-eyed wonder on the other, I suggest we also need to focus on the fundamental issues that will propel journalism--practice, education and scholarship--into an affirmative future to best serve not only our students or the organizations that will employ them but most importantly, the public interest.

In the interests of transparency, I begin this review of the past 10 years of published work on journalism with full disclosure. I am a journalism professor and journalist and thus have taken a pragmatic approach to this review, scouring the archives for studies that could both take journalism education forward and map the course for future study. That is my frame--and my challenge. With an eye to journalism education, practice, and scholarship, I will frame the critiques and scholarship of the past 10 years as the foundation for a collective brainstorm on what we journalists call a look forward.

Balancing the cerebral and the concrete, this summary of key areas aims to prompt thoughtful debate and continued study on the questions that surround the meaning of good journalism as well as to arm those educating the practitioners of tomorrow with studies, questions, and points of discussion that they can pull directly into the classroom. The rationale is simple: While many scholars and thinkers have equated journalism's messy transformation over the past decade as an indicator of an institution in crisis, I suggest that one element of this crisis may be our inability as educators and thinkers to not only keep pace with the implications of these changes but to provide coherent direction. What better place to stay ahead of the curve than the classroom and the academy?

This review begins by tracing the evolving thought on journalism education as an incentive for educators to rethink our curriculum as well as to spark creative scholarship that advances the current debate. The second section operates as the scaffold for the following sections, which address several substantive areas that can deepen and broaden the journalism curriculum (and the scholarship that supports it) either as it now stands or as it has yet to be reconceived. Section 3 investigates the continual reexamination of the bedrock values that inform good practice, regardless of the platform on which it is presented. The work reviewed there could advance and enrich classroom discussion on ethics and objectivity as well as prompt future areas for study and debate. Section 4 presents three emerging areas many educators and scholars believe deserve inclusion into a comprehensive journalism curriculum--or research portfolio. To date, none of these areas (science writing, literary journalism, and alternative media) has been studied extensively. Section 5 investigates the challenges inherent in today's explosive global mediascape. Journalism as an institution is rapidly becoming border-free: It is imperative that we not only study the myriad implications of an emerging and complex global news media, but also bring such study into the curriculum. Finally, this review essay concludes with a brief series of questions with regard to rising issues that researchers have yet to address in depth.

While the vast majority of published work included in this review appeared in scholarly journals, I have also included articles from trade journals specifically directed toward practitioners. …

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