BY NYA WYNN
Given the increase in multimedia journalism, and the subsequent need for journalists to diversify their skill sets, institutions across the country are revamping their journalism programs to adapt to the new demands in the field. The university is no exception and has been updating its journalism program over the course of the past couple years.
In 2021, the university’s journalism minor was in need of a program director, and Nancy Karibjanian, director of the Center for Political Communication, stepped up to revamp the program.
Karabjanian led an internal review that included students, alumni, faculty and administrators to collect responses about how people felt about the program. She then led an external review of the program with various experts from across the country who run successful journalism programs. The external review produced a report about the state of the journalism minor.
“In the report they said that since the majority of journalism minors are communication majors, and because that is where the majority of journalism programs in the country exist, [the journalism program] should move to the communication department,” Karibjanian said. “The report also said that there were a number of stagnant courses being offered… [and] from there we formed a committee to address what could be done to the program.”
Initial changes to the program that will be implemented in the fall include the addition of a second multimedia course, an introductory photography course and a documentary photography course. These courses will be added to the program to better prepare students to be multiplatform journalists. This includes not only print and broadcast, but also photography, videography and even social media.
“At no point could a student who siloed themselves, either all print or all broadcast, because of the way the minor was drafted, gain the skills from the other side,” Karibjanian said.
Previously, the journalism program resided within the English and communication departments. This led to most of the courses taken within the minor being housed within those two departments without much variation.
“There wasn’t a lot of choice,” Lydia Timmins, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies at the university, said.
Additionally, students at the university can only have a certain amount of courses taken in their major count toward their minor. This meant that English and communication students may miss out on a variety of classes because they had reached the maximum number of major courses that could count toward the minor.
“A person that’s gonna be a journalist, has to know how to shoot video, how to edit video, how to get photographs, how to interview, all of that,” Timmins said. “That is what needs to be a part of our journalism program. So adding some photography classes is important.”
“Adding these extra courses will enrich the minor and give students more options,” Philip Freedman, adjunct journalism professor at the university and editor for the Asbury Park Press, said.
Some other classes one could take in the minor include an ethics course and a class on social media management. Utilizing a variety of platforms, including social media, has become essential for prospective journalists to further their career, according to Freedman.
“Everyone knows how to Tweet, but being able to Tweet for work is a skill,” Freedman said. “The big challenge for newspapers today isn’t the competition from another newspaper, it’s trying to get people to read them. That’s why it’s so important to be able to understand how to use [social media] to get people to see your story.”
On top of diversifying the curriculum within the minor, events to promote the program and enrich student learning are being held, including the inaugural Byline event back on May 4. The event marked World Press Freedom Day by inviting New York Times senior political correspondent, Maggie Haberman, to speak to students about her journey as a journalist and author.
There are big plans for the journalism department, including the hope that journalism will be offered as a major. However, this type of change would require a substantial increase in resources as well as more professors to teach the additional journalism courses needed to sustain a journalism major.
“The students who take our journalism courses are amazing,” Karabjanian said. “And when you look at where our former graduates are, they’re amazing. To give students of this caliber the opportunity to actually major in journalism and perhaps double major with something else would be fantastic. It is definitely in consideration, but it’s not something that happens in a university setting overnight.”