The field of journalism education is changing, just as the field of journalism is changing but the need for people who can communicate continues because the hunger for information continues. The hunger remains even as the vehicles for information distribution continue to change and expand in number.
The September 24, 2014 panel discussion at Edgewood College, sponsored by the Madison Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Simpson Street Free Press, offered insights from college and high school level educators.
Download or Listen to the Audio of this Forum (90 minutes)
Kim Hixson, chairman of the UW-Whitewater Communications Department, expressed the concern that downsizing in the news media is a danger to democracy. Thus it was important that journalists continue to be well-prepared for the jobs that they would hold. But because of the changes in news distribution, the UW-Whitewater Communications Department has added new courses covering journalism for the web, and social media.
Jon Netzler, journalism teacher at Stoughton High School and adviser for The Norse Star student newspaper, said that the Stoughton student journalists are excited about working on their newspaper because they have the freedom to report on what they want. “That one thing is everything,” he said. He also observed, “Students are communcating in new ways that people don’t always understand.”
Deirdre Green, managing editor of the Simpson Street Free Press, noted that their journalism model for improving student performance is working well. “When kids write well they go to school motivated and prepared,” she said. “Students improving academic skills are learning job skills.”
Linda Friend, adjunct faculty in the Edgewood College English Department and former public television producer, said that the Edgewood College student newspaper is no longer offered in print because it became too expensive. Students are now posting their stories online. Edgewood works with the Simpson Street Free Press and each SSFP student is mentored by an Edgewood college student, one on one.
Hemant Shah, director of the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said that journalism does have a future because journalism school grads are still getting hired. Studnets still need to receive sound training in the fundamental communcations skills. The University of Wisconsin is integrating journalism with strategic communications in order to offer a broader training to students.
In the question and answer session that followed the presentations, one educator in the audience noted that students who write well and love to write still have lots of outlets available. “Many organizations are news organizations that never were before, such as non-profits,” he said. Non-profiits are producing a lot more stories about their activities and need staff who can write those stories. There are still jobs for journalists.