Changing The face of Journalism in the Digital age

"The School of Communications, Media and the Arts (SCMA) has begun to discuss the possibility of convergence between the journalism and broadcasting departments.

"In future years, SCMA would require journalism majors to take more broadcasting classes and broadcasting majors to add journalism classes as part of their core curriculum. Currently, there are 334 broadcasting majors and 110 journalism majors at Oswego State.

"Journalism majors are currently required to take two classes with the broadcasting department: BRC 229-Broadcast News Writing, and BRC 319- Mass Media and the Law. Broadcasting students are not required to take any journalism classes to earn their bachelor’s degree.

"Although SCMA has yet to make any formal announcement about changes to the journalism and broadcasting curriculums, professors within the department believe the discussion is a reaction to the changes within the media.

""It’s necessary," said Ron Graeff, a professor in the Communications Studies department. "It’s a reflection of what’s happening in the real world. One of the distinctive features of American journalism is that it has a commercial foundation. That commercial side of journalism is converging. We all know that. We know the print side of journalism is going away."

"Graeff currently teaches three broadcasting classes within the department: BRC 229-Broadcast News Writing, BRC 329-Broadcast News Reporting and BRC 429-Broadcast News Processing and Production. Graeff believes that journalism students should be taking broadcasting classes because they teach students essential information about the use of cameras and shooting video, aspects of journalism he says won’t be go away anytime soon.

"BRC 329 and BRC 429 is part of the Electronic News elective track that journalism majors can use to satisfy their elective requirements. Overall, journalism majors can choose from five elective broadcasting classes to satisfy that area of the major. There are currently no elective classes that broadcasting majors can take that will count toward completing their major requirements.

"Graeff also admitted that the fundamentals of writing need to be further addressed with both journalism and broadcasting students.

""High schools aren’t doing their job well," Graeff said. "We get students that are ill-prepared to write clear sentences. I don’t know why that’s happening but that’s a decline I’ve seen over a period of time."

"With more and more big-name print newspapers ceasing operation and moving to online journalism, journalism professors at Oswego State believe that a change needs to be made to the curriculum to better prepare students for careers in new media.

""A modern journalism program needs to properly equip its students with as many skills as possible that will fit the media available to them in the workplace today," said Jeff Rea, a journalism professor. "We can no longer afford to have a print only program. Students need to be unafraid to try new things, willing to get behind or in front of a camera, willing to learn different styles for different media and willing to position themselves as an asset for any media company that might hire them, whether it’s a website, television station or a newspaper."

"Rea has taught JLM 209-News Writing and Reporting, JLM 309-Advanced News Writing and Reporting and COM 395-Sports Reporting during his three years at Oswego State.

"Rea believes that the journalism program needs to adapt to new media, meaning a focus on multimedia, but also should not lose sight of the fundamentals of writing.

""I believe we have made efforts and are continuing to make evolutionary efforts to make sure that we are offering our students a journalism program that’s very well grounded in fundamentals," Rea said. "That means a full understanding of the tradition on which print journalism has been operated: training in ethics, newspaper writing and baseline skills like interviewing."

"If SCMA decides to converge the journalism and broadcasting programs, they would not be the first SUNY school to do so. SUNY Brockport does not offer a degree in journalism or broadcasting alone. Instead, they are infused into one degree. A student at Brockport wishing to become a journalist graduates with a journalism/broadcasting degree with a concentration in Electronic and Print Journalism.

"Journalism/Broadcasting majors at Brockport are required to take classes that focus on both concentrations, such as Introduction to Digital Video/Audio, News Writing, Video Production and Media Law and Ethics. Journalism/Broadcasting majors must also chose one of four concentrations offered at the school: Media Production, Electronic and Print Journalism, Public Relations and Media Studies. Students with a concentration in Electronic and Print Journalism must take Advanced Media Writing and Web Publication and Design while choosing between elective classes, such as Mass Media Reporting and Research, Sports Writing, Feature Writing and, Live TV Production.

""With the industry the way it is today and the convergence that is going on, students need to be resourceful in the skills that they have if they want to go out and get a job," said Monica Brasted, chairperson for the Communication department at Brockport. "It’s beneficial for production people to know how to write or a journalism major to know how to shoot audio and video."

"The journalism program at SUNY Plattsburgh has also altered its curriculum toward new media. Last fall, the journalism department incorporated a brand new multimedia major. With the new multimedia major, Plattsburgh now offers four journalism-based majors: print journalism, broadcast journalism, magazine journalism and multimedia. Multimedia students are required to take classes from each of the other three journalism curriculums, including classes in Magazine Article Writing, Digital Publishing, Web Design, Broadcast Journalism and Interactive Journalism.

""We want students to wear as many hats as possible," said Shawn Murphy, chair of the journalism department at Plattsburgh. "That is something that has existed for a good 10 years where students try to be writers, editors, designers and so on. Now we have a bunch of multimedia courses that are required for the newspaper and magazine students."

"Plattsburgh’s journalism and broadcasting programs have led to success in the school’s student media. In Fall 2006, 19 of the National Broadcasting Society awards in the Northeast were awarded to Plattsburgh students and in Fall 2007, the student newspaper, Cardinal Points, was named a finalist for the Newspaper Pacemaker Finalist, arguably the highest honor for college journalism.

"The journalism program at Oswego State continues to take small strides in improving its program. Currently, journalism majors must either graduate with a double major, a minor or a learning agreement that consists of six to 12 classes. As of right now, the journalism program is geared toward hard news writing, with a very small emphasis on opinion, sports, and arts and entertainment writing, classes that are offered year-round at Brockport and Plattsburgh.

"However, a possible convergence within SCMA may open the door for more jobs within the department, Graeff said, and classes focusing on other forms of journalism other than hard news may present themselves.

""The more information there is, the more people need good journalist to sort through it so they can tell us what’s important and why it’s important," Graeff said.

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