At CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism we just told the students that they no longer need to commit to a media track – print, broadcast, or interactive. We believe this is the next step in convergence. All media become one.
Since the day we opened our doors, CUNY has taught all students all media. In the first of three semesters (plus an internship), everyone takes the fundamental of interactive course and (as of this year’s class) a fundamentals of broadcast course. They all learn how to gather news and tell stories in audio, video, blogs, live blogs, wikis, Twitter, social tools, and whatever comes next. Of course, they also learn the eternal verities of journalism and techniques of reporting and writing. They are now exposed to the fundamentals of the business of journalism. As they progress through other classes in their subject specialties, they are required to create stories in various media.
We had still required our students to pick a track and I’ll confess that many people asked us why we did that. My answer was that employers would expect this specialization. It was, in truth, a dash of caution. But then we heard – particularly from adjunct faculty still working in the field – that this wasn’t necessarily so. We also watched our students from any track work in any track. And we’re getting better (and still need to get better) at requiring work in many media throughout the program.
From the day the school started, various faculty members – including, notably, the head of broadcast – wanted to find the way to tear down the walls between the tracks. Now we thought it was time.
So what we’ve really done is simply give students more choice. We still have the same media courses and department. We still have prerequisites for the ultimate course in each medium (you can’t take interactive III without having taken interactive II). But now we will advise students to select courses based on what they want to do professionally as well as what they already know (because many students enter the school proficient in various new media).
We’ve given the students various scenarios: Someone who wants to work in broadcast or online will likely take the courses they would have taken anyway. But now a student can take the full track in both electronic media. Or a student who comes in with good skills in those electronic media may choose to strengthen skills in what we used to call print (we’re not sure what to call it now so we’re calling that core). Electives that used to be offered mainly to students in a track – like my entrepreneurial journalism course – will now be open to all.
We also offer many workshops during our January academy between semesters and through the year: in photojournalism, Flash, copy-editing, VJ video storytelling, and so on. We’ll add more, especially as we also offer our graduates refresher courses as part of our 100,000-mile guarantee to keep them up to date.
Those are the details. The bigger point is that media is becoming singular. Especially as newspapers die and more people watch what we used to call TV online or on mobile, it will be absurd to separate the forms. In my day (picture me blogging that from a rocking chair), we had to pick our medium once for a career. Now, every time a journalist goes out to cover news, she must be equipped and prepared to gather and share it in any and all media. That’s what we mean when we say convergence.
We’re very lucky at CUNY that we’re new and don’t have the legacy of old media practices and turfs to deal with. I don’t say that to pile on other journalism schools that are struggling with how to change as fast as the media world around them, reflecting the same struggle in newsrooms (more than once, I heard the cry, “fuck new media”). Nor do I want to pretend for a second that we’ve solved the problem; we are constantly updating our thinking and our curriculum. It’s a never-ending discussion that we have in faculty meetings and training sessions on RSS, mobile, blogging, wikis, Twitter, new media architecture, new news business models, and so on. As Rich Gordon at Northwestern’s Medill J-school has long said, the most important skill we need to teach is change. And we can’t teach it fast enough.