One Can Lead JMC Students to "Deep Knowledge," but Can You Make Them Think?

By Claussen, Dane S. | Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

One Can Lead JMC Students to "Deep Knowledge," but Can You Make Them Think?


Claussen, Dane S., Journalism & Mass Communication Educator


Welcome to the first issue of Journalism & Mass Communication Educator under a new editorship. Under the previous editor, Jeremy Cohen of Penn State, this journal made significant progress toward primarily publishing social scientific research about journalism and mass communication education. When it wasn't social science in the strict sense, articles and essays were steeped in scholarly literature and/or written from long experience by senior scholars. I plan to retain all of Cohen's innovations, plus add some new ones: letters to the editor, a much more extensive Web site, closer working relationships with the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication (ASJMC) and projects outside of AEJMC and ASJMC such as the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education. Many members of Cohen's Editorial Advisory Board are continuing, but many are new, and more will be added over the coming months and years. I plan to continue publishing in each Fall issue the annual enrollment survey conducted by Lee Becker and his staff at The University of Georgia. I want to thank Jeremy Cohen and everyone who worked on this journal under his editorship for greatly improving its quality. I thank Jeremy and the AEJMC Publications Committee for their confidence in entrusting me with this editorship, and the AEJMC staff for all of their help.

The report from the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education, "Journalism's Crisis of Confidence: A Challenge for the Next Generation," and an earlier one, "The Business of News: A Challenge for Journalism's Next Generation" provide a great deal of food for thought about the alignment of JMC education, JMC educators, and professional journalists. While others may have seen other aspects of the reports as more important, what repeatedly jumped out at me was the emphasis on journalists needing to be specialists, even experts, in what they are covering. The latest report demands journalists who are "steeped in knowledge about the subjects they report on," and observed an "aching need for educated, knowledgeable, ethical and objective journalists." Vartan Gregorian, Carnegie Corporation's president, said, "Journalists today need a keen grasp of statistics, science, politics and history," which to me means more than the one or none statistics courses, and more than the very few courses in the other subjects, that the typical journalism major completes. Indeed, Ellen Shearer, then assistant dean at Northwestern's Medill school, called for journalists having "deep knowledge, and knowing how to get deep knowledge."

To me, the implicit or explicit model or mechanism to make this happen is for print and broadcast journalism students to have offered to them, and for them to then enroll in, courses, intra- or interdisciplinary minors or majors, double-majors, and joint degree programs that would allow them to graduate with a bachelor's degree in JMC already knowing enough about: science to be a science reporter, religion to be a religion reporter, business/finance/economics to be a business reporter, and so on. This is the general idea behind business and medical journalism programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and various other specialized undergraduate reporting programs. (Coincidentally, Chris Roush, who directs the business journalism program at Chapel Hill, contributes an essay to this issue about the need for better training for business journalism.) My own institution, Point Park University, has one of the country's two journalism-based innocence projects in the United States (the other one is at Northwestern University; a third one is being planned at Brandeis University), and under Pulitzer Prize Finalist Bill Moushey, we train undergraduates in investigative journalism as well as anyone. Other institutions also have specialized courses for undergraduates.

The case made by media executives interviewed for the CarnegieKnight Initiative is both a professional one and an economic one. …

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