This is a proposal I recently made to the UMass Amherst journalism department. The idea is to hold a week-long boot camp teaching the basics of multimedia journalism at the end of every summer, geared toward incoming freshmen but open to all j-students.
Why have a boot camp?
Immersion-style learning is the best way to pick up new tools. A boot camp will teach students the fundamentals of storytelling and establish a baseline for proficiency in multimedia. I can see a natural progression as the program funnels new students into campus media outlets, where they continue to gain practical experience while learning about media history, criticism and ethics in classes as freshmen and sophomores.
By the time students become upperclassmen, they can take master classes in specific subjects — broadcast, radio, photojournalism, advanced multimedia, etc. — spending less time learning how to use the tools and more time actually using them to practice the craft of journalism, producing mature, complex works.
Nuts and bolts:
- Students must apply for entry into the program by mid-summer.
- The boot camp runs for 5 days right before the start of fall semester.
- Students pay for on-campus housing and meals, but can gain advanced placement in certain classes and receive 1 credit counting toward their journalism major requirements upon successful completion of the program.
Who will run it?
Whoever on faculty wants to. Summer programs are a great way for students to get to know professors outside of a classroom setting and to feel a part of a welcoming community within the department. Due to the accelerated nature of the curriculum, a different professor can come in each day to teach their area of expertise, whether it’s ethics, news writing, photography, etc.
I’m personally willing to volunteer my time as a program coordinator for the boot camp, living in the dorms with the students, handling communications and teaching several of the workshops. I have two years’ experience as a Resident Assistant in freshmen halls at UMass, and also served two years on the administrative staff of the UMass marching band (which runs band camps in the summer, so I know a lot about the logistics of these things).
Incoming freshmen can get familiar with the local area and make friends with fellow student journalists before classes start, giving them an extra boost in confidence at the beginning of their college careers. The summer program can be a bonding experience that strengthens our community of students and faculty by making the journalism department a place students can call a second home.
Finally, boot camp participants will get a head-start on technical skills, setting them up to become peer mentors in the classroom as they help other students surmount the learning curve.