Report Identifies Successes of Journalism Education Initiative. Students Gain Deeper Knowledge, Better Equipped to Navigate Changing Industry

A new report released at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication meeting in St. Louis, Mo. details the successes of a multi-year effort to transform journalism education at the nation’s leading schools of journalism.

The report, produced by the Joan Shorenstein Center at Harvard, describes major changes at the 12 schools participating in the Carnegie Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education whose creation in 2005 by Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation was driven by a sense that journalism was in peril.

As Alex Jones, Director of the Shorenstein Center writes in the foreword to the report, the Initiative began even before the full impact of digital technology was apparent and the economic model for journalism had collapsed, there was a growing sense that a complex world needed a deeper journalism and better-trained journalists. The nation’s journalism schools were largely responsible for that training, but were widely perceived to be behind the times and, in many cases, marginal players on their campuses.

The Initiative was born of a determination to “advance the U.S. news business by helping revitalize schools of journalism.” Three distinct efforts were identified:

• Curriculum enrichment which would integrate schools of journalism more deeply into the life of their universities.

• News21, an internship program in the form of an incubator that would create annual national investigative reporting projects overseen by campus professors and distributed nationally through both traditional and innovative media.

• And the Carnegie-Knight Task Force, which would focus on research and creating a platform for educators to speak on policy and journalism education issues.

Commenting on the importance of grounding journalism education in deep knowledge, Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie Corporation, said, “We must continue to cultivate journalists who are well-educated, steeped in expertise, deeply knowledgeable about the subjects they report on and, one hopes, even cultured individuals. It is not enough to simply turn out reams of reporting and then race on to the next story. To understand the underlying ideas and possible ramifications of important, even truly transformative events, requires that the individual conveying the story be trained and informed enough to deal with complex, nuanced information with richness and depth. Journalists must do their job with excellence, skill and understanding.”

“Although traditional models of newspaper, radio and local television news dissemination are severely challenged,” said Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of Knight Foundation, “every community in this democracy continues to have a core need for reliable information, news that informs and news that helps build the common language that builds community. That need will not go away and provide hope for future journalists. They will tell those stories with traditional, verification-journalism values but on multiple platforms and structures influenced by new technology. Journalism can train them to do that and, in that sense, journalism schools have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead the industry. Carnegie and Knight has helped contribute to their success.”

Over the course of the initiative, Carnegie Corporation and the Knight Foundation invited 12 schools to apply for grants aimed at achieving the three goals for curriculum reform. An internship program focused on multi-media and digital innovation – News21 – was funded separately, as was the provision for the deans of the Initiative schools to speak out on relevant issues. Each school approached curriculum reform – and the integration of the school with the university – in a different manner. There was no prescribed model. Indeed, the intent was that each school should chart a path that was tailored to its own situation and vision. This report includes a description of the curriculum reform efforts of each of the schools, and how they evolved over time.

Shorenstein's Alex Jones writes that at the start of the Initiative, the focus of the Carnegie Corporation was largely on what came to be called “knowledge-based journalism,” meaning a deeper and more rigorous journalism drawing from the scholarship and knowledge base of great universities. The Knight Foundation’s primary focus was on the digital transformation of journalism, which in the early days of the Initiative was taking place, but had not yet become a sweeping revolution affecting every form of journalism. Eventually the twin concerns became inexctricably intertwined.

Each of the journalism schools approached curriculum reform – and integration with the larger university – in its own way. And, the effects of the curriculum reform efforts encouraged – and in some cases prompted – an atmosphere of change that went well beyond the specific area of enrichment.

Carnegie-Knight Journalism Schools

Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California

Graduate School of Journalism, University of California at Berkeley

Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University

Joan Shorenstein Center for Press, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard University

Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University

Missouri School of Journalism, University of Missouri

School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

College of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland

S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University

College of Communication, University of Texas at Austin

Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State University