The journalism department at the University of Memphis is in the early stages of updating our curriculum to help our students build the knowledge and skills they will need in the new media world. I would love to get your feedback as we embark on this project.
Currently, we have three news/editorial sequences: newspaper/magazine, broadcast, and the rather unfortunately named “Internet journalism.” We are exploring the possibility of collapsing these sequences into one – but maybe still preserving the opportunity for students to develop an emphasis in one area.
A key aspect of a curriculum revision in this era of converged media is identifying a set of skills/competencies you’d like ALL of our graduates to have. Here’s my current list – admittedly these are coming off the top of my head and are fairly general in nature. I’ve included both “traditional” and the “new” skills here, and many of these we already teach.
I’m doubtful that we could ask our students to develop expertise in ALL of these skills, but I’d like to see them develop at least some familiarity with the majority of them – and maybe go deeper in one or two specific areas. Please add some or comment on these.
(A caveat: The MOST important aspect of a college education in journalism, in my view, is to develop a strong ability to think critically and creatively. These skills I list here are more mechanical in nature – critical thinking is something that must be part of all coursework.)
Skills We Want ALL of Our Students to Have:
- Writing a)Basic grammar and style b)Standard news story c)Feature/Strong narrative writing ability d)Developing a online “voice” on a (beat) blog f)writing a script for video/podcast
- Reporting and covering a beat
- Interviewing, developing sources, talking to people
- Computer-assisted reporting/databases
- Basic video shooting and editing (Final Cut?)
- Basic principles of Web design and some coding (CSS)
- Basic principles of shooting photos/ability to put together a slideshow (e.g. Soundslides)
- Record audio and produce a podcast
- Writing headlines AND basic search engine optimization
- Content curation – how to select good links/content and make sense of it to readers, and offer context/background on an issue for going deeper (akin to NYT Topics pages)
- Using social media to a)report b)promote your work c)foster community d)cover a beat e)figure out what’s going on in your community
- Flash? Creating (simple) Web graphics? (I know less about this myself..)
- How to produce live reports – via text, via Twitter, via CoverItLive…
- Be able to answer the question: What is the BEST media to use to cover this story?
- I’d tend to argue that layout e.g. InDesign is no longer as relevant – but I never had to take a class on it when I got my degree in the 1990s either, so I’m no expert.
- Core values of the profession – Elements of Journalism (and ability to think critically about how to apply those values in their daily work – and in new media)
- Media law
- What is going on in media/journalism today? (All students should be armed with ideas for new business models, ways to deliver content how/when people want it, etc.)
- Basic knowledge of the institutions of civic life, e.g. county/city/state/national government
- Entrepreneurship? Learning how to freelance and work for non-traditional organizations?