Rebooting journalism education means constant state of change

Geneva Overholser, director of the School of Journalism at the USC Annenberg School for Communication, has added her thoughtful voice to the “rebooting” journalism education discussion with an Online Journalism Review column.

As predicted, journalism education's “reboot” was the hot topic at the recent Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) convention in Chicago thanks to a recent series of articles, speeches and blog and listserv postings.

Overholser outlines several areas for discussion:

  • The debate shouldn’t just be about industry vs. the academy. She urges schools to think more about the public that is also creating journalism and to think about the diversity of both the creators and audiences.
  • Universities need to build richer connections to professionals, and there needs to be more research to guide the change ahead.
  • Schools need to be the “labs that experiment and test new techniques” of journalism.

I think Overholser is on target when she writes that rebooting journalism education will be an ongoing process.

There is no end-point. No matter how effectively we debate this, no matter how well we "solve" the questions confronting us, there'll be no stasis. These conversations have been going on for a good while (here's a summation of one from two years ago at AEJMC) and they'll go on for a long time more. Change is our new reality, and it isn't going away. As Google's Richard Gingras said at AEJMC, "How can we create work cultures of constant innovation?" (His questions at the end of the speech are terrific thought-provokers.)

This comment ties nicely to an article in The New York Times about how media companies such as Discover, a cable TV company, and News Corporation are pushing into the education arena, especially with online products and services. Even textbook publishers are starting to change how they think about the future of their businesses:

“Over the last 10 years alone, we’ve invested $9.3 billion in digital innovations that are transforming education,” said Will Ethridge, chief executive of Pearson North America, part of Pearson P.L.C., the world’s largest education and learning company. “One way to describe it would be an act of ‘creative destruction.’ By this I mean we’re intentionally tearing down an outdated, industrial model of learning and replacing it with more personalized and connected experiences for each student.”

Ethridge’s comment goes to the heart of Gingras’ speech at AEJMC.  Constant change is the new reality.

I also like Overholser's idea of journalism educators playing a larger role in news and media literacy, both at their schools and with the public at large:

We must redefine our "market." We know that the quality of journalism depends on the quality of the demand for it. How might we play a greater role in media literacy? We know that the academy seems to be experiencing some of the disruption that has hit so many media institutions. What if we put these two facts together and started serving more and more of the public in smaller chunks of time (and money)? Finberg cites a great example: UC Davis is experimenting with "digital badge" programs that can "measure core competences rather than the standard three-credit course."

Constant change and rethinking audiences, those are lessons for rebooting journalism education.

  • Howard Finberg

    Howard has been in journalism for 40 years. His resume includes positions with the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and The Arizona Republic.


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