Editor’s note: Nieman Reports, our sister publication, is out with its newest issue and there’s plenty of material there for any journalist to check out. But over the next few days, we’ll be running excerpts of stories we think would be of interest to Nieman Lab readers. Be sure to check out the whole issue.
Here, Jon Marcus, higher education editor at The Hechinger Report, examines the future of journalism education.
When a handful of students show up this fall for the new media innovation graduate program at Northeastern University, they’ll learn coding, information visualization, videography, database management — even game design. The Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York (CUNY) is incubating journalism entrepreneurs who can earn master’s degrees and advanced certificates in innovative approaches to the media business. Uptown, at Columbia University, the journalism school and computer science department are in the first year of teaming up to deliver a certificate program for journalists and others in data technology and using data.
Journalism education has come to the same ominous inflection point that journalism itself has reached — and the stakes are just as high. Universities are shutting down or proposing to shut down journalism schools, or merging them with other departments. Enrollment is falling — dramatically, for graduate programs — while it’s rising at newer institutions and those with an emphasis on digital media. New forms of teaching online and new credentials menace all of higher education’s monopoly on academic credit.
As technology advances, professionals want more training, like they’ll get at programs such as Northeastern’s. And foundations that have filled the void left when media companies stopped lavishing their wealth on journalism schools are aggressively pressing for reform.
In response, some journalism schools are abruptly transforming themselves to teach new forms of media and new methods of delivering the news. “We are trying to blow up everything,” says Jeff Howe, head of the new, three-semester program at Northeastern. Supported by a $250,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the program will revolve around an “innovation seminar” in which teams of students will apply their newfound skills to real-world projects in news delivery or reporting techniques.
“Like journalism, education is ripe for disruptive innovation,” says Howard Finberg, director of partnerships and alliances at the Poynter Institute. If j-schools fail to respond, Finberg says, they are “at risk of being bypassed or overshadowed.”