- University of Maryland
- College Park, Md.
- Personal Website
Haynes Johnson's groundbreaking investigation of the historic 2008 presidential election hopes to redefine both national journalism and how we teach it.
Haynes Johnson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning public affairs journalist.
The Knight Chair would anchor the college's innovative public affairs reporting program and its student-operated Capital News Service bureaus in Annapolis and Washington, DC. The Knight Chair holder would teach public affairs journalism at College Park, conduct weekly seminars and workshops for those enrolled in the Capital News Service program, and advise students on major journalism projects that are sometimes substituted for the thesis required in the master's program. The chair holder also would be available for outside lectures and speaking appearances, both in the Washington area and beyond.
This year my focus was mostly on the presidential election and its impact on journalism and news reporting. I designed the courses so that students read various elections coverage and reporting from the 1950’s till today. For the election coverage, I used multimedia tools as much as possible to help students visualize the changes in election reporting.
This year, students were assigned to look at news coverage and critique what they see as if they were editors of news publications. They were asked to carefully analyze what they would change about the specific outlet they had chosen. Students have continued to look critically at our current media environment – a period in which great social, economic and political stories have dominated recent headlines. Also, with regards to our race and civil rights reporting discussions, I used the Pulitzer Prize winning book “The Race Beat.” Students were assigned to compare what they read in the book with current events and the press’s reporting of minorities.
I teach a journalism course for University of Maryland Honor scholars this year. As stated above, we focused on the presidential race and its coverage. Most of our discussions were based on media literacy issues since most of the students were undergraduates and were considering journalism as their future profession. I assigned students to look at campaign from the perspective of hard new also focusing on the role political satire plays in the current political atmosphere. Also, students are assigned to compare different radio, television, print, and online news outlets and see how they differ in covering presidential campaigns.
Question-and-Answer with Knight Chair
State of the industry: What disturbs you most about journalism and the media industry today? What excites you most?
As I stated last year, I believe that journalism has become drastically focused on sensationalism in its reporting. Unfortunately, during the presidential campaign this issue was present in news reports and election coverage which my students wrote about extensively. That said there are many great talents thriving in the field which is what excites me the most. Seeing young reporters practicing traditional news values and developing great skills in engaging the public is a hopeful perspective.
Teaching the profession: What do you do to bring the newsroom into your classroom? How do your students learn about current journalism practices?
The most important factor in my classes is to have students discuss issues as if we were running a newspaper. Through these discussions I focus on how each student is approaching the subject. I usually ask “how would you cover this story?” and ask other students to weigh in on what has been proposed. Also, students turn in media critiques each week which allows me to focus on their writing skills. I base my main agenda on comparison and how specific topics are covered differently. Journalism students here at the University of Maryland, as a result of their work with CNS, apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to real-world reporting scenarios, often working beside and in competition with professional journalists.
Media Innovation: Do you think journalism programs should keep up with the quickening pace of change in the industry? How can they? What is your approach?
During the current presidential election I have realized how young reporters such as my students are using social media. Ignoring these significant changes will isolate those who are not skilled in utilizing new media skills. I find that traditional news values can only be respected if journalism schools integrate those values with new news reporting skills.