ONA session proposes new ideas for journalism ed

Journalism / Article

Above: Eric Newton. Photo credit: Anusha Alikhan.

A workshop during the 2013 Online News Association annual conference in Atlanta brought together about 70 educators to design an ideal j-school program for the digital age.

Knight Senior Adviser Eric Newton and Texas State University Associate Professor Cindy Royal led the “Hack the Curriculum” panel. Newton introduced the session by asking participants to imagine that they are not teachers but consultants tasked with designing a fantasy curriculum.

“The point is to gain insights from each other about what you’re doing now and what you can do differently going forward,” he said.

Seven breakout groups brainstormed around specific themes—from integrating programming and data into classwork to mobile media and entrepreneurial journalism. Themes were pulled from Newton’s just-launched digital book, “Searchlights and Sunglasses, Field Notes From the Digital Age of Journalism,” which calls for a revolution in journalism education.

Some of the ideas that surfaced during the afternoon included:

  • Creating a journalism bachelor’s or master’s program in programming and data to demystify the subjects and highlight the opportunities they pose for storytelling.
  • Fostering connections with students across disciplines to encourage critical thinking and intellectually responsible journalism.
  • Making digital media literacy a required course for freshmen to give students a leg up in the job market.
  • Promoting opportunities for students to connect with the community so that they can develop a deeper understanding of public information needs and the importance of citizenship.
  • Developing a “teaching hospital” model with media organizations to give students real-world reporting experience, while building a new breed of community information providers.
  • Embedding mobile media into curriculums so that it is critically integrated into teaching around content and audience preferences.
  • Teaching students to think like entrepreneurs, stressing the importance of innovation and experimentation, as well as good business practices.

Newton closed the session by encouraging educators to “intellectually challenge” the mindset that traditional journalism education is still working.

To that end, during the conference Knight and three other foundations announced a $1 million micro-grant contest that will support teaching hospital-style news experiments in journalism schools; the Online News Association will run the contest, the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education.

Knight is also supporting a PBS MediaShift initiative to use “Searchlights and Sunglasses” to ignite a conversation around journalism education reform. MediaShift will revamp its EducationShift section and encourage dialogue through action-oriented convenings, as well as a new Facebook page and a dedicated hashtag on Twitter, #edshift.

Anusha Alikhan, communications director at Knight Foundation

Listen to an archived recording of the “Hack the Curriculum” session from ONA13. Two Storifys of the session, “Knight Foundation launches digital book ‘Searchlights and Sunglasses’” and “Hack the Curriculum“, are also available.