By paulgillin | March 29, 2010 - 7:43 am - Posted in Hyper-local, Layoffs

After visiting the School of Journalism at the State University of New York at Stony Brook last week, I came away hopeful that some journalism educators accept the profound changes that are going on in their field and are earnestly trying to adapt instead of hiding in a foxhole.

There are 10 full-time and several adjunct faculty at the only journalism school in the 64-campus SUNY system, and I met with many of them, including Dean Howard Schneider and Undergraduate Director Paul Schreiber, both of whom are 30+-year Newsday veterans. The school is only four years old and isn’t much burdened by the calcified thinking that tends to set in at more established schools. The fact that they would actually invite an iconoclast to visit demonstrates that. We didn’t agree on everything, but we had vigorous discussions, and that’s what counts.

Three things in particular impressed me about the program:

  • The faculty has completely bought in to the idea that students must learn to work in multiple media. That doesn’t mean they force a gifted writer to become a video producer, but they do insist that their students master the tools that they will need to survive in a digital media world. They’ve even built a futuristic newsroom with all the tools and sources that students need to master.
  • A “News Literacy” program is offered to the entire school and even to outside educators. These courses are aimed at teaching students in different concentrations to understand how media works so that they can become better communicators and smarter consumers. It’s a great idea that could be the foundation of growth for the entire journalism program.
  • All journalism majors are required to take an ambitious slate of courses in one of four multidisciplinary concentrations: Public Affairs, Diversity and Society, Science and the Environment, Global Issues and Perspectives. The idea is to get students started on a concentration early in their careers. That’s smart thinking, since the days of the general assignment reporter are basically over.

Radical Thinking

The advice I shared with the faculty should come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog, but here’s a summary:

  • The core principles of journalism – accuracy, fairness and trust – are more important than ever in a world that’s awash in opinion, speculation and rumor. Don’t stop teaching these skills.
  • Entrepreneurship should be a core competency for any aspiring journalist because the institutions that sustained careers in the past won’t be healthy or even available in the future. Students must learn to take responsibility for their own success.
  • Not-invented-here thinking is death. Journalists must learn the skills of curation and aggregation because their audience is no longer seeking more information but rather ways to manage the overwhelming amount of information they already have.
  • Media democratization can be an opportunity or a threat, depending on how you look at it. The opportunity is in the fact that professionals in nearly all disciplines will need to be skilled communicators in order to get ahead. Journalism education should become part of core college curricula. However, this may require blowing up some existing journalism schools and spreading those resources throughout other departments. Most journalists still see democratization as a threat; educators that choose to see opportunity can quickly move ahead of their peers.

I wrapped up the day by speaking to one of Prof. Barbara Selvin‘s classes. I took the opportunity to haul out the Flip cam and ask seven journalism majors why they’re bucking conventional wisdom. Their responses were encouraging. See the brief video



This entry was posted on Monday, March 29th, 2010 at 7:43 am and is filed under Hyper-local, Layoffs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


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