How to Educate Innovation Journalists? Experiences of Innovation Journalism Education in Finland 2004-2010

By Lassila-Merisalo, Maria; Uskali, Turo | Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

How to Educate Innovation Journalists? Experiences of Innovation Journalism Education in Finland 2004-2010


Lassila-Merisalo, Maria, Uskali, Turo, Journalism & Mass Communication Educator


Finland has been among the very first nations to apply for practice theories of innovation journalism-journalism covering innovations. This essay is based on deep interviews since 2004 of all former Finnish innovation journalism fellows (N = 9), and two surveys of undergraduate journalism students (N = 16) who took part in the world's first innovation journalism courses for university students in Finland. We argue that a fellowship program is often a part of a larger professional process of change, and that innovation journalism education should mainly focus on mid-career journalists.

"The landscape of journalism has changed beyond all recognition in the two decades" - (but) "most journalism training seems to be strikingly similar to that being provided twenty years ago," argues Hugh Stephenson, Emeritus Professor of Journalism at City University London.1

In times of rapid change in communication in societies, even the key concepts of journalism are challenged. Are all people already journalists like, for example, Gillmor has argued?2 Singer disagrees: "Not all publishers of information are journalists."3 Knight has probably given the best summary of the ongoing discussion:

Journalists were once defined by where they worked; in newspapers, or radio and television stations. The Internet promises everyone can be a publisher. But not everyone has the skills or training to be a journalist; defined by their professional practices and codes of ethics. Such journalists will continue to authorize information, providing signposts for discerning audiences.4

The fact that the whole media scenery is in a maelstrom also sets challenges to journalism education. Already in the turn of the new millennium, journalism educators on both sides of the Atlantic noticed new trends in journalism and a need to reform journalism education. Servaes has listed the following suggestions: (1) the need to focus on "service to the public," not industry; (2) the need to address "challenges posed by new economic, technological, cultural, and social realities"; and (3) the need to make journalism education "diverse, inclusive, and glocal."5

Nevertheless, both journalism and journalism education are such strong institutions and have such long traditions that changes can happen only slowly. For example, the first World Journalism Education Congress (WJEC) was organized in Singapore not earlier than 2007. More than 400 journalism educators agreed on eleven principles to strengthen journalism education,6 but in general, the themes of the panels and research papers did not yet indicate any urgency for changes. However, the next Congress, in July 2010 in South Africa, was titled Journalism education in an age of radical change.

The International Encyclopedia of Communication says journalism education is an "instruction for work in the news departments of media organizations, both print and electronic." Furthermore, "the instruction can take place before journalists enter the workforce, during early employment, and at later career stages." It is also mentioned that journalism education can involve practical training in the skills of the journalist and broader education about the context of that work.7

Deuze identifies two distinctly different positions for journalism education in society: the "follower" mode and the "innovator" mode. In the latter mode, journalism training is seen as a development laboratory that prepares students for a changing future rather than static present. He argues that journalism education tends to be based on a classical model of the profession and its privileged role in democratic society. Furthermore, he argues that a more differentiated mission might prepare students for an increasingly complex future.8

University-based journalism education began in the United States. First, institutions such as what is now Kansas State University taught printing, and then English departments offered courses in basic writing and reporting skills for print journalism. …

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