2
0
1
9

For journalism curriculum to change, its faculty needs disruption

“What do these companies want? Leadership, strategy, problem-solving, excellent communication skills, all buoyed by an undercurrent of tech savvy — just what journalism graduates should be able to deliver.”

It’s time we got serious about building media curriculum around digital product concepts. But in order to make meaningful, comprehensive and holistic change, we’ll apparently need new faculty.

A research project by academic professional Amanda Bright of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia says it’s faculty who are preventing journalism curriculum from becoming more digital. Her case study of three U.S. journalism/communication programs found that “the predominant obstacle to digital curriculum decisions at these institutions was individual members’ inability or unwillingness to learn new concepts and technologies.” She found that journalism curriculum was more likely to be developed around faculty interests than student needs. (Full disclosure: Dr. Bright was a fellow in the inaugural PhDigital Bootcamp held at my university this past summer, a program I directed, designed to prepare faculty to lead innovative curriculum.)

This situation is untenable. Students need exposure to current media platforms in a modern curriculum and faculty interests and competencies must align with those needs. Digital product jobs are becoming more commonplace both within and outside of media industries. You’ll see positions now at Washington Post, New York Times, McClatchy, BuzzFeed, Vox Media and across community media organizations for web, mobile, data, visuals, video, engagement and social media producers. It’s no longer unusual to see the roles of product manager, director of product and chief product officer in media organizations.

Plus, opportunities abound for product-focused people at companies like HomeAway, HEB and Home Depot. What do these companies want? Leadership, strategy, problem-solving, excellent communication skills, all buoyed by an undercurrent of tech savvy — just what journalism graduates should be able to deliver.

But if we want graduates to have a chance at contributing to product teams across a range of industries, profound changes to curriculum will be necessary. That change can’t occur with faculty who are unable or unwilling to adapt.

It will ultimately require more than just a tweak here and there. It means teaching new courses in coding, data analysis, social media analytics, social storytelling, data visualization, multimedia package development and emerging topics to include 360 video and virtual reality, bots, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and whatever comes next.

But it’s more than just introducing these shiny, new technologies. It’s about focusing on the needs of users, identifying and solving problems and having the insight and exposure to know what’s possible. Beyond having scholars and instructors who can research and teach in these areas, programs need faculty who make decisions on personnel and curriculum committees to understand and embrace these concepts.

How can a program move its faculty toward digital product concepts? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Take an inventory of your faculty. What competencies exist and which are absent? Then develop a plan for filling the gaps.
  • Hire new kinds of faculty. Consider hiring tenure-track faculty from other disciplines, like information or data science programs, or professional faculty from web development and technology companies.
  • Identify faculty candidates with technical inclinations who are self-taught with strong digital portfolios.
  • Disrupt mass communication doctoral programs to better align faculty interests with student needs that are driven by the requirements of the professions. Recognize that instruction is an integral part of a professor’s duties and integrate teaching and research in these programs around relevant digital concepts.
  • Invest in existing faculty. Send faculty to new kinds of conferences, let them take classes, set expectations for faculty development. Substitute an academic conference with something that allows them to be exposed to emerging topics. Encourage them to become active in meetup groups in the local community. Adjust the ways in which faculty are evaluated and incentivized to include these activities.
  • Seek collaborations across the academy. It may not just be the computer science program that can augment your digital competencies. Make connections with programs in information and data sciences, the business school and the art department.
  • Set an example. One innovator can have an influence. Be the change you want to see in your program. But know that a program will only go so far with a token digital leader. The center of gravity of a program must shift toward a digital product mindset.

Yes, tenure is an issue when it comes to motivating faculty. But if we accept that, in general, faculty have students’ best interests at heart, programs must start exploring curriculum solutions that better meet everyone’s needs.

In 2019, begin to innovate your curriculum. But first, disrupt your faculty.

Cindy Royal is a professor and director of the Media Innovation Lab at Texas State University.

Jesse Holcomb   We’ll get better at making the case for local journalism

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

Claire Wardle   Forget deepfakes: Misinformation is showing up in our most personal online spaces

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

Simon Galperin   After capitalism’s fire, journalism’s secondary succession

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

Mike Isaac   The old exit doors for digital media companies are closing

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

Cristi Hegranes   A year to invest in the security of local journalists

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

Carrie Brown-Smith   Advocating a healthy civic life is no journalistic crime

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

Kjerstin Thorson   Time to get mad about information inequality (again)

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

Errin Haines Whack   Say it with me: Racism

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Adam B. Ellick   Video forensic reporting goes mainstream — and local

Whitney Phillips   Our information systems aren’t broken — they’re working as intended

Tushar Banerjee   Interactive ads will be the new face of display advertising

Glyn Mottershead and Martin Chorley   When a tech company pulls the plug on your story

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

Hossein Derakhshan   The news is dying, but journalism will not — and should not

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Elisabeth Goodridge   Yes, they signed up — but our job’s not over

Jenée Desmond-Harris   It finally sinks in that some people aren’t white

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Frank Chimero   Leave the phone at home and put news on your wrist

Rebecca Lee Sanchez   We are all actors in the running rampant of political theater

Seth C. Lewis   The gap between journalism and research is too wide

Efrat Nechushtai   Journalism wants to be your friend, not your teacher

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

Steve Myers   From trying to cover it all to covering what matters

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

Axie Navas   The traffic hunt, CMS battle, and magazine identity crises loom

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

Millie Tran   There is no magic — you’ve got this

Hearken   Pivot to people

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

Alyssa Zeisler   We expand what (and how and who) we serve

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

Angilee Shah   The year news orgs say “yes” to real leaders

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

Frank Mungeam   Tonight at 11: News, sports, and climate change

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   The most beautiful sentence in 2019 is “No.”

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   A long, slow slog, with no one coming to the rescue

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Matt Waite   “I went to Node.js because I wished to live deliberately”

Tshepo Tshabalala   Ahead of African elections, unlock partnerships with fact-checkers

Amy Schmitz Weiss   Local news isn’t where you thought it was

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

james Wahutu   Think 2018 was bad? Wait until you see 2019

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Amy King   We should listen to the kids (especially on Instagram)

An Xiao Mina   The death of consensus, not the death of truth

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

Tyler Fisher   This is journalism’s do-or-die moment

Stephanie Edgerly   It’s time to understand the un-audience

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

Matt Karolian   Publishers come to terms with being Facebook’s enablers

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Raney Aronson-Rath   We learn “digital” doesn’t have to mean “short”

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

Mike Rispoli and Craig Aaron   Government funds local news — and that’s a good thing

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau   A more sincere definition of “community”

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

Cindy Royal   For journalism curriculum to change, its faculty needs disruption

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

Cătălina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

Umbreen Bhatti   The story doesn’t end for the people we quote

Alexandra Borchardt   Newsrooms need to build trust with their journalists, not just the audience

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Heather Chaplin   Agree we’re partisan — for the democratic system

Jonathan Stray   More algorithmic accountability reporting, and a lot of it will be meh

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

Sarah Stonbely   Mapping the local news ecosystem — with scale but detail

Zainab Khan   Publishers whose products can stand up to social media giants will win

Kevin Douglas Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

Manoush Zomorodi   Tech will do for information overload what it did for mindfulness

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Jennifer Dargan   You don’t build diversity through one-off training sessions

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

Robin Kwong   Tech shouldn’t be the only field pollinating “news nerds”

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

Pia Frey   You can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis