In arelatively recent study headed by Donica Mensing, the Dean of the journalismprogram at the University of Nevada, researchers found that journalism programshave mostly responded to industrial shifts by implementing technology-specificand media-specific tracks into their curriculum. Based on her findings, Mensingadvocates for a return to community based journalism. According to Mensing,”our study recommends a realignment of journalism education from anindustry-centered model to a community-centered model as one way to re-engagejournalism education in a more productive and vital role in the future ofjournalism,”. Mensing’s main argument is this: developing acommunity-focused model of journalism education helps journalists meet their communitiesneed for information. Mensing’s idea of journalism is more about news as acommunication structure. Mensing writes, “in the same way that the goal ofengineering programs is not to prepare students for their first jobs at largeengineering firms, but to build safe bridges and highways, the goals ofjournalism education should be about building functioning communicationstructures within communities,”.
Since the beginning of formal journalism education,the main focus for journalism programs has always been on coachingstudent-journalists to work at newspapers. Eventually, these programs addedcourses in television and radio, PR, advertising, design, and other topics. Regardlessof whether one looks at journalism education at graduate level or undergraduatelevel, the focus was training their students to work for traditional mediacompanies. Now, the very news companies that formed the way we teachjournalists are beginning to struggle, which means “Demand for their products is falling,” Mensingargues that: “general interest journalism, written in a particular style andconvention, does not resonate with readers who have more choices forinformation and entertainment,”. Just like the teacher from Pike High School,April Moss, pointed out, the modern news consumer has so many different choiceswhen it comes to how they can consume their media diet, and increasingly consumersaren’t choosing to read traditional news copy.
The fact is: the mass media industry is in a time ofextreme uncertainty. The Internet has proved to be a powerful force in changingthe way journalists work and the way news is gathered, produced, consumed,purchased, and viewed by the public. These changes are upsetting the status quoat news companies in many ways, and the journalism programs which choose to teachan increasingly aging curriculum are contributing to that status quo—contributingto many of the difficulties that media companies are currently facing. Theseprograms maintain their emphasis on producing traditional news reporters inspite of trends towards social media and multimedia oriented journalism.
Theypreserve their concentration on teaching skills and techniques that weredesigned for traditional newspaper and television reporters despite theexponential rise in the number of consumers who receive their news on some formof two-way media. These programs still teach students how to work in atraditional newsroom when many of their journalism students never will. Theseforms of instruction make the mistake of separating journalism philosophy andeducation from the actual methods being used by media companies in today’sworld. High school and collegiate journalism programs will have to be dexterousin their teaching methods in order to successfully train their students for thefuture of such an uncertain business.
If high school and collegiate journalismprograms fail to keep up with the industry, their students will be largelyequipped for the complexities of the ever-changing media landscape.