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AJE | 'The Future of Journalism Education: the student perspective' by Julie Bradford and Josh Halliday

AJE | 'The Future of Journalism Education: the student perspective' by Julie Bradford and Josh Halliday

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Published by Josh Halliday

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Published by: Josh Halliday on Jun 21, 2009
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10/03/2012

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AJE paper Future of journalism education: the student perspective(Josh Halliday and Julie Bradford)
Introduction
2009 has been described as the worst year to graduate since the 80s, and for journalismstudents it is the worst ever.As we know, more than 1,000 journalists have been laid off since last summer, according tothe NUJ.The industry is in an unprecedented state of flux – newspapers and magazines are going outof business, there is no one industry standard for doing the web, what tools or platforms touse, and there is as yet no business model for making it all pay.And there are serious questions being asked about whether journalism degrees are up topreparing students to enter the fray.Yet applications to journalism degrees are going up – rising by 24% this year. What
are
students thinking?We tracked comments on online forums – indeed, Josh set one up for European student journalists - and carried out a survey answered by around 150 students from 30 universitiesin the UK and abroad. We asked them how they saw their future careers, what they thoughtwas important in journalism education, what they would like to see added to their currentdegree course, and what they would like to see dropped.In this presentation we’ll be looking at:
what students think is important to learn
what employers are telling them they want
what recent graduates are finding when they enter the industry
The survey
Surprisingly, after that introduction, almost three quarters of those questioned said they wereas keen or keener than ever to enter the profession since they started their course
.
This was a general optimism that showed itself in much of the feedback we received:
“Because it's an innovative and exciting industry that is forever changing” “There are more opportunities for innovation in journalism than there ever was before, and as someone who lives ‘outside the box’ journalism is more appealing” “The new entrepreneurial spirit in journalism is exciting” “Greater opportunities for innovative thinking. Fast-developing new methods of storytelling” 
Despite the media commentary doom-mongering, the next generation of journalists is raringto go.
 
When asked how important certain skills were for a journalism student to learn, 91.5% of respondents said web-based skills were
vital
or 
important
.They said they needed web skills to help them deal with the uncertainty in the industry, whilesome expressed frustration that they weren’t being properly prepared by universities and theNCTJ.
“Journalism students need to be adept at both the old tricks of the trade (newswriting, sub-editing, law) and the new ones (web, social media, Twitter). We need to be qualified tocreate and publish content across all platforms until it is clearer what path our own careerswill take” “Our school is very good at traditional media but lecturers are still afraid of going 2.0” “Some journalism departments some of the time are still in a mentality of preparing peoplefor reporting jobs in local newspapers. The NCTJ, which has a tiny emphasis on the web let alone new media, encourages this” 
Further, 88.5% of respondents said learning audio and video reporting was vital or important,and 96.3% said sub-editing and design were vital or important. Around one-third of studentsfelt their course didn’t put enough emphasis on these skills.But the biggest emphasis was still on the basics of news gathering and writing, whichstudents did not want to lose in the mix. A warning note was sounded by a j-school student inthe United States:
“At the moment I'm spending so much time mastering ways of presenting information that I'm not spending anywhere near enough time understanding what story should be told. I'mlearning to do slick presentations of slim stories. This can't be right” 
A debate within industry and academia alike is how deep into web-based skills new journalists need to go. We asked students whether they thought they should be learning webcoding, like HTML and CSS, as part of their course. Just over half (52.1%) said yes, while19% said no and a fairly hefty 28% said they weren’t sure.There seemed to be a general consensus that the web is only going to become moreimportant, and so it follows that being adept at the language of the web and understandinghow data can be presentedis preparation for the future.
“That is where the present is and the future will be. Anyone who does not learn this skills will be left behind” “A good blog and SEO skills are vital. Mine are terrible and it is my biggest gripe with my course that they have not taught me properly” 
 
“Because it would make it easier to be an all round writer/web designer and sub editor,which are skills that all journalists nowadays need to have” 
But, as the figures imply, there is deep-rooted unease about getting to grips with technology.Journalism educators often assume that young students are web-savvy and at ease withweb tools – but a surprising number of students say they are intimidated by technology andwent into journalism to write, not design web pages.
“Oddly the students seem slower to adopt new media than the faculty. Multimedia wasoffered for the first time last semester, and no one signed up” 
Not everyone is interested in that kind of stuff” 
We had the same experience at Sunderland. Although multimedia is embedded in our coremodules, we offered a new, more advance module as an option . . . and just four studentssigned up. That’s why, although many respondents said web coding should just be an option,others said they wished they’d been
made
to take it.
Web Journalism is not a compulsory part of the degree and as it's not a strong point of mine,I have deliberately avoided choosing Web modules. Perhaps if Web Journalism (which isbecoming increasingly essential) were compulsory it would force people like me to give it ago! 
Finally, we asked students what they would like to see added to their course curriculum. Theword ‘online’ featured prominently, as shown by this WordleEven among those who were reluctant, there was an overwhelming acceptance that webskills were important. At the very least, they were acknowledged as skills that would makesomeone stand out from the competition in the hunt for a job. They didn’t see it as somethingthey should be learning in their spare time, either.
More incorporation of online; a look at developing storytelling methods; a look at what thefuture of journalism might hold; how journalism makes money.
I think more work with the online medium, blogging and similar skills are important ones that sort of get glossed over.
“If I’m learning my essential skills of online media on my own, then bravo to me and give memy money back!” 
As well as compulsory work placements, another prominent theme in the student wishlistwas more specialization – column writing, science journalism, sport, international, war,music, fashion, reviews . . just the chance to be more creative.
“Possibly a module in international or war journalism, something that might inspire rather than dampen the flames” “More variety. There is currently an extreme focus on news journalism, whilst perhaps 70%of the students on the course have no interest in pursuing a career in that field” 

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