A New Chapter

The Future of Journalism

In August 2011 I joined the faculty of the University of Illinois College of Media as an Assistant Professor of Journalism. Soon thereafter, I was asked by the other faculty members to draft a profile of what a student graduating with a Journalism degree would “look like.” What skills would she have? What experiences? How would she fit into the new media landscape? Here’s what I came up with –

Because she is cognizant of the fact that the lines between broadcast, print and online journalism will continue to blur into a mobile, multimedia future, a graduating Department of Journalism student is an expert in one of the following disciplines and possesses a working familiarity the others: Writing, Video/Photo Journalism, Multimedia Design and Database Journalism/Programming.

She has had at least two internships during her four years in the department. She has an award-winning body of work that demonstrates her ability to conceptualize and develop stories off-campus in diverse and unfamiliar communities. Her resume includes references from working professionals who are recognized as experts in the field.

She is passionate about her craft, confident in her abilities and tenacious in her pursuit of a story. She self-identifies as a journalist rather than as a student or student-journalist, and has built a network of personal connections through her activities in appropriate professional organizations.

Though she is not a technician, she fearlessly embraces technology and leverages it in the creative service of her narratives.

Her online footprint is substantial and dynamic. She uses the Internet and social media tools not only to gather information and develop sources for her stories, but also to share information about those stories upon publication. Through her web presence she has cultivated her unique brand – that of a technologically agile storyteller who routinely brings her particular expertise to collaborative, multi-disciplinary projects that explain and contextualize stories, rather than merely transcribe events.

She practices journalism that is personal in its reporting and interactive in its presentation. Her projects engage her audiences and catalyze dialog within them.

She is grounded in the history and ethics of her craft. She is familiar with the trends, personalities and stories that have shaped the practice of journalism in democratic societies. She recognizes that she is ultimately accountable to her subjects and to her audience. She believes in the power of journalism to effect change.

Now… let’s see if we can make it happen, and change the conversation depicted in the above illustration.

4 Responses to “A New Chapter”

  1. nick January 31, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    Interesting, although somewhat gender biased, don’t you think?

  2. Stretch Ledford January 31, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

    Thanks for reading, Nick! I picked the feminine because in the classes I’ve taught the women have outnumbered the men by huge margins. This seems to be true across the board in Journalism programs.

  3. nick January 31, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    Of course, I could be sexist (and a possible exile) by simply saying women seem to need to talk (write) more than men do. I could, but I won’t. I prefer to think that perhaps women are just inherently prettier, smarter and much more capable of handling complex matters than men are! [That ought to get me in trouble with both sexes!]

  4. Jack Brighton February 6, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    Nick, you succeeded! :)

    Stretch, I think your statement is a great one. I especially appreciate that you include words like “interactive” and “dialogue” as components of reporting. Beyond mere changes in technologies and tools, it seems to be the opportunity to include and engage more people in the process of storytelling is the biggest hurdle we have yet to mentally leap. Nice job here!

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