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 In a
relatively recent study headed by Donica Mensing, the Dean of the journalism
program at the University of Nevada, researchers found that journalism programs
have mostly responded to industrial shifts by implementing technology-specific
and media-specific tracks into their curriculum. Based on her findings, Mensing
advocates for a return to community based journalism. According to Mensing,
“our study recommends a realignment of journalism education from an
industry-centered model to a community-centered model as one way to re-engage
journalism education in a more productive and vital role in the future of
journalism,”.

Mensing’s main argument is this: developing a
community-focused model of journalism education helps journalists meet their communities
need for information. Mensing’s idea of journalism is more about news as a
communication structure. Mensing writes, “in the same way that the goal of
engineering programs is not to prepare students for their first jobs at large
engineering firms, but to build safe bridges and highways, the goals of
journalism education should be about building functioning communication
structures within communities,”.

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Since the beginning of formal journalism education,
the main focus for journalism programs has always been on coaching
student-journalists to work at newspapers. Eventually, these programs added
courses in television and radio, PR, advertising, design, and other topics. Regardless
of whether one looks at journalism education at graduate level or undergraduate
level, the focus was training their students to work for traditional media
companies. Now, the very news companies that formed the way we teach
journalists are beginning to struggle, which means

“Demand for their products is falling,” Mensing
argues that: “general interest journalism, written in a particular style and
convention, does not resonate with readers who have more choices for
information and entertainment,”. Just like the teacher from Pike High School,
April Moss, pointed out, the modern news consumer has so many different choices
when it comes to how they can consume their media diet, and increasingly consumers
aren’t choosing to read traditional news copy.

 

The fact is: the mass media industry is in a time of
extreme uncertainty. The Internet has proved to be a powerful force in changing
the way journalists work and the way news is gathered, produced, consumed,
purchased, and viewed by the public. These changes are upsetting the status quo
at news companies in many ways, and the journalism programs which choose to teach
an increasingly aging curriculum are contributing to that status quo—contributing
to many of the difficulties that media companies are currently facing. These
programs maintain their emphasis on producing traditional news reporters in
spite of trends towards social media and multimedia oriented journalism. They
preserve their concentration on teaching skills and techniques that were
designed for traditional newspaper and television reporters despite the
exponential rise in the number of consumers who receive their news on some form
of two-way media. These programs still teach students how to work in a
traditional newsroom when many of their journalism students never will. These
forms of instruction make the mistake of separating journalism philosophy and
education from the actual methods being used by media companies in today’s
world. High school and collegiate journalism programs will have to be dexterous
in their teaching methods in order to successfully train their students for the
future of such an uncertain business. If high school and collegiate journalism
programs fail to keep up with the industry, their students will be largely
equipped for the complexities of the ever-changing media landscape.

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