Sunday, August 10, 2014

Building a Journalism Curriculum

On Monday, the newly combined faculty of UGA's Department of Journalism meets for the first time to see how far a committee has gotten in revising the curriculum. Keep in mind we've combined the digital and broadcast folks with the journalism folks, so this first stab at revising the curriculum is designed to fit both sets of students.

Showtime is Monday afternoon. Yes, the faculty have already received it, so I can freely blog about it.

This is merely a proposal, a "working document." The summer committee designed an initial try at combining our programs. Yes, we talked about core competencies and what peer institutions are up to, and yes we did all the homework you normally do before getting into the nitty gritty. Here's what the committee came up with the the core, what all students must take. The underlying assumption was all students need multimedia experience.

Semester 1
  • Combined law and ethics class. The idea here is to expose students right off the bat to the tension between what journalists legally can do and what they ethically should do. Many programs hold this off until the end. That's a mistake.
  • Reporting. A big lecture on all aspects of reporting, from interviewing to fact-finding to documents and the rest.
  • Writing. Small classes, 16 or 18 or so, focused on writing across platforms.
Semester 2
  • Skill building, in which students pick from a set of 1-hour or 2-hour specific classes on video, photo, graphics, and coding. Perhaps others.
Semester 3
  • Multiplatform story production. The guts of the curriculum, in many ways, with work possibly finding its way online at Newsource.
Semester 4
  • Capstone experience in Newsource, our newsroom. Two sections will specifically be tied to the television news show, four sections to special projects that appear either online or on the broadcast.
Beyond the CORE there are specialties. Right now, the list is:
  • Photojournalism
  • Management, innovation, and entrepreneurship
  • Investigative Reporting
  • Feature Writing (magazine students, for example, may go here)
So, what's different? Multimedia, for one. A somewhat bigger core for journalism, but roughly similar to what digital and broadcast journalism is used to. More skills classes. Less flexibility. Less nimble. A lot of time feeding the beast of core skills classes, leaving faculty fewer opportunities to experiment with new stuff. No drone class. No bourbon class.  An attempt to remove the names of media from classes and majors, that's happened. Good.

Okay, so what's the response likely to be on Monday? Well, anyone who feels "their" class isn't the most important, or is being watered down, they'll damn sure speak up. It's all about us, after all.

Do I like it?

Not so much, and I was on the committee that created the damn thing. I think it's a good first shot, and I'm sorta kinda with the whole teaching hospital approach of using Newsource as our anchor experience.  But I dislike big cores. I dislike cookie-cutter approaches to education. So really it comes down to some interesting philosophical differences. Do you want all students to have a lot of the same experiences, or do you want students to pick from a buffet of classes that fit their particular interests? Importantly -- which would you hire? A specialist? Or a generalist?

Tomorrow is gonna be fun.

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