I’d like to expand here on a thought that bubbled up during the session, in the middle of a discussion about the inclusion of entrepreneurial journalism in j-school curricula. I had suggested that j-schools should apply the basic theory behind link journalism — do what you know best, and link to the rest — to structuring their own programs. In other words, focus on teaching the craft of journalism and its fundamental theories, techniques and tools within the major, and “link out” to peripheral knowledge bases (business/advertising, information technology, programming and design) by sending students to other schools within the university system.
So what does that look like in action? Let’s take the UMass Amherst Journalism program as an example: currently, students enrolled in the major must complete an official minor, concentration or second major in order to fulfill the requirements for graduation. Now suppose the journalism department established interdisciplinary programs with the other schools and, in collaboration with faculty in those schools, created specialized tracks for j-students. This opens up a wealth of possibilities:
- A student who wants to get into the business side of news would take a planned series of courses in the school of management concurrent to classes in journalism, then apply that knowledge to a hands-on master class in entrepreneurial journalism.
- A student interested in environmental beat reporting after college would take a class on environmental policy in the department of natural resources during the same semester as a newswriting class, and practice writing stories for that beat.
- A team of students could take a programming class in the comp sci department together and develop apps for journalism as part of an independent study.
And so on. The advantage of an interdisciplinary approach is that students get exposed to a much wider range of knowledge, while journalism faculty can focus on teaching to their strengths.
Betty Medsger’s essay, Getting Journalism Education Out of the Way, was brought to my attention and contains a similar line of thought:
Journalism faculty should become gate openers to the entire university, rather than guardians of journalism studies. As such they would work far more closely with colleagues in other disciplines. They would develop the relationships needed to recruit excellent students from other disciplines, not to a major or minor in journalism but to an intensive senior year introduction to journalism. The curriculum would be truly interdisciplinary. Assignments in journalism courses would make use of what students have studied in their major areas of inquiry and also tap the expertise of faculty in other disciplines.