The future may seem daunting for the print industry, but journalism remains an essential media practice. It is human nature to participate in and be informed about the world in which we live, and that constant need will never change.
St. Joseph’s College sees the value of this method of public service and recently introduced a B.A. in Journalism and New Media Studies (JNM) program on both its campuses. As the information age is constantly evolving, this new program teaches students reporting skills, as well as how these skills can be used to communicate in various forms of media.
“We’re adapting the traditions of good reporting and storytelling to the era of new media,” says Theodore Hamm, the JNM department chair.
Students will be put on a path tailored specifically for a career in media communications. The major has been operational in Brooklyn for more than a year, and opened to students on the Long Island Campus in the fall 2013 semester. The first class of Long Island JNM majors will graduate in May 2015. The 18-credit minor, also instituted in fall 2013, can be achieved in one year for current students, if their schedules allow.
No matter how you cover it, the future for St. Joseph’s aspiring journalists is bright.
What does “new media” actually mean? MJ Robinson, Ph.D., associate chair of the journalism and new media studies department on the Long Island Campus, characterizes the intersection of digital technology and networked communication as the major feature of the current phase of new media. According to Robinson, interactivity and digitization now affect all forms of media — text, photos, videos and infographics — creating a new age of digital journalism.
Robinson is a political economist/broadcast historian who holds a Ph.D. in Media Culture and Communication from New York University. Her work investigates the interaction between television industry practices, technology and culture, drawing upon her professional experience in international co-production for the Law & Order franchise and films such as The Interpreter. Her book, Television on Demand: Curatorial Culture and the Transformation of TV, hits bookshelves in 2015.
“New media is when we move into the Web 2.0 environment and everything becomes interactive,” Robinson says. The term “interactive” refers to the fact that people can comment on a story, journalists can reply to readers, and readers can talk amongst themselves, share additional links that might relate to a story or upload their own pictures or video to augment the news coverage.
“This new form of communication,” she says, “opens up the possibility of participation in the media environment to a larger population.” For the Long Island students, the new degree opens a wealth of new opportunities for publishing work and starting careers. “Students have the opportunity to publish on the St. Joe’s Report L.I. [stjoesreport-li.org], the department’s online publication/showcase/laboratory of student work,” Robinson says. “Students also get involved with local media. Current students have had internships at News 12 and the radio stations owned by JVC Communications, as well as other news and new media communication outlets.”
Journalism has recently been perceived as being at the edge of extinction, so why introduce a new journalism major?
Although it’s evident that print journalism is indeed paring back, Robinson believes that journalism as a whole is merely transforming.
“The industry has been changing drastically, so we’re educating students for jobs in digital journalism and its related fields,” she says. “New media communication is a lucrative field and there are jobs in pretty much every company or business sector for people with this knowledge.
It’s not just for journalists — the major teaches digital storytelling and how to manage communications in our always-on, always-accessible networked world. Students learn pertinent and helpful information in this major, which will prepare them for employment in myriad industries.
This new digital media environment calls for a new curriculum that will teach students how to succeed in it. Even if students decide against going into journalism exclusively, Robinson knows that there is a need in every industry for the skill set a person acquires through the program. The major also complements many other areas of study, including business, marketing, political science and communication studies, all of which are offered by the College.
The Brooklyn Campus began conducting classes for its journalism and new media studies program in September 2012. Under the direction of Theodore Hamm, founding editor of the literary and culture tabloid The Brooklyn Rail, the journalism department in Brooklyn has begun to increase its curriculum, incorporating a number of reporting subjects.
The initial courses in the major cover the basic techniques of reporting and journalistic writing. “Long-form journalism is a dying art, but being a writer is essential to new media,” Hamm says. While the course allows itself to be not exclusively writing based, but writing oriented, this differentiates itself from a traditional English course.
In Clinton Hill, there is an extensive stress on reporting on the city, which allows the students to have direct access to several stories. Local reporting in the past year has focused on city politics and the recent mayoral race. The course has expanded to reporting on arts and culture, business, science, the environment and sports. Journalists must be storytellers, and the students have learned to apply their skills and publish their work on the course’s website.
The Brooklyn Campus also dove right into the new media aspect of the today’s journalistic world through its online SJC news source, St. Joe’s Report (stjoesreport.org). Each course in Brooklyn’s journalism program contains its own blog page on the website for students to publish original reporting. According to Hamm, the goal for the site is to eventually be completely student run.
In most of the journalism classes, students heavily discuss news stories related to the course and read many articles on the topic. They are then assigned each week to report on
specific areas and write blog posts that are peer-evaluated and edited during class, which is a process that continues until the end of the semester. Most class time is spent discussing and fleshing out students’ areas of interest so they can write on one particular story for the final portion of the semester.
Accompanying the site is a variety of social media, which is an area of study that the department will eventually induct. With an increasingly visual world, the concept of new media is heavily involved in the journalism course that students are more familiar with as they are active participants in this technological world.
To the students, one of the more exciting parts of the curriculum is the use of different storytelling mediums. In the course Digital Media I, students learn to create their own website and the basics of editing photos and video. Then continuing in Digital Media II, students each create their own short documentary while learning how to be an effective video journalist.
“Like journalism graduate schools, we cover the basics of writing, shooting, and editing then posting,” Hamm says. Learning to be independent journalists with multimedia skills is one of the ways students can better market themselves.
The 24-hour news cycle, Web-based journalism, infotainment and the influence of social media forms such as Twitter make the teaching of knowledge-based journalism crucial to the training of socially responsible, informed and ethical reporters.
Knowledge-based journalists, Robinson says, “know what they know, know what they don’t know and know how to ask the questions to get what they don’t. Cable news outlets often take an interpretive approach to the stories they are reporting and allow opinions to stand in for facts or be reported without substantial verification. The JNM major teaches students to practice the journalism of verification and to objectively report what they have discovered in their research so their readers, viewers or listeners come to view them as reliable sources.”
In addition to what is being taught in the classroom, there are exciting opportunities for students to gain perspective on potential careers and acquire on-the-job experience. Many events, including guest lectures from established journalists, build awareness about the program on campus and outside the community.
Students in the Brooklyn Campus’ program were recently invited to participate in events with known news publications to connect with potential employers. Last October, WNYC Public Radio held an event, NewsHive, at SJC for burgeoning journalists to produce news stories. Then in November, a panel of producers from the NBC News Leadership Development Program spoke to students on how they got started in the business. In addition to a networking event, students were able to receive one-on-one mentorship from the producers of NBC Nightly News, Today and MSNBC.
Both programs promote students to apply for internships at news organizations so that they may gain the experience to begin their careers. Current students enrolled in the JNM program include Antoinette Cammarano ’14, who interns at CBS, and Yarelyn Estevez ’15 who interns at the assignment desk at ABC. SJC’s strong connections with NBC, Viacom, and the Queens Ledger allow the students to explore their opportunities within the College. Jordan Buffa ’15 interned at News 12 last fall, and will be working in their event management and promotions department after graduation. Alyssa Reynolds ’15 will be interning for Giaronomo, a film trailer editing company, in the fall. Dylan Gafarian ’15 is coordinating a partnership between SJC Radio and JVC’s news radio station at MacArthur Airport.
The creation of the JNM minor is part of SJC’s innovative approach to education. Like other recently instituted programs, such as hospitality and tourism management, nursing and the marketing minor, it acknowledges the changing job markets that students are entering after graduation. Its emphasis on new media communication skills that equip students for careers in journalism and/or other new media fields demonstrates SJC’s dedication to providing students with a liberal arts education for the 21st century.
As the department in Brooklyn is working journalism into becoming a minor, current students are active participants in creating news stories on a consistent basis, which is the job of a journalist. The JNM department plans to expand its course offerings to include reporting on sports, religion and education. And in the not-too-distant future, overseas reporting will be offered as well, thus enabling majors to fully expand their horizons.