Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab at American University, believes there could be a greater role for journalism education than the current one
“Journalism schools, in my view, should be recasting themselves as a gateway to just about any career a student wants to have. If it happens to be in journalism, that’s fine (…) Journalism skills are a great baseline for medical, law or business degrees.”
He is one of the many people interviewed in the report “Above and Beyond. Looking at the Future of Journalism Education” from the Knight Foundation on the future of journalism education” by Dianne Lynch.
Even though the report was written in 2015, it seems very fresh indeed on its outlook on the challenges of the media industry. Lynch concludes that while the essence of journalism hasn’t changed, the way journalists work has been revolutionised. The new journalist roles makes an upgrade of journalism education needed NOW!
New Journalists Roles
Journalism schools and media professionals agree that he current education does not keep up with the changes in the field. Almost half of industry people and close to 40 per cent of the educators say that education is behind.
But what does the changes in the field mean for the roles of the journalist today? Lynch interviews journalism educators and industry people to establish these new journalist roles and concludes we must be:
- Analysts, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs: journalist students must work interdisciplinary and learn teamwork, design processes, and an enhanced understanding of the business of media-product start-ups.
- Community builders and mobilizers: the journalist must know how to engage the audience in conversation by knowing user engagement, communicating with your audience and how to use social media to expand and extend your audience.
- Business orientated: because the division between business models and journalism is fading since advertising revenue has been replaced by a patchwork of income sources.
Lack of Knowledge within Journalism Schools
There are many obstacles before journalism schools can teach those skills, primarily because most teachers don’t have the competencies to teach.
Actually, Hans Rosling makes the same argument in “Factfulness” – that the knowledge of academic staff is sorely out-dated and therefore our education system is teaching the past rather than the present.
Instead, Lynch says, the J-schools must find a model to teach those skills. It could be by investing in highly qualified professional instructors who would either physically or digitally deliver relevant short-courses or immersive workshops.
Also students should receive lectures and knowledge from other faculty departments e.g. in mathematics and political science. And finally, working with a digital first strategy is paramount in preparing students for real life.