In the Q&A that followed a lecture by the Guardian’s Editor-in-Chief Alan Rusbridger at the Sciences Po School of Journalism in Paris earlier this month, a student seated near the back of the intimate lecture theatre posed an inevitable question. To paraphrase: what would it take to get a job in your newsroom?
Rusbridger prefaced his response by congratulating the 40-odd assembled students for possessing enough grit to be pursuing a journalism education under present circumstances. He then conjured the image of a candidate who is excited about the challenges and opportunities inherent in this period of upheaval; a journalist who lives and breathes digital, has a head filled with inventive ideas, and ideally, is something of a data whisperer.
It seems as if these are exactly the kinds of graduates who will be turned out by the new Guardian News & Media/Cardiff University Masters in Journalism with Digital Media, which was announced in a press release on the Guardian’s website yesterday. The yearlong, London-based post-graduate programme has yet to receive official validation, but aims to convene its first class of students in September 2013.
“Journalism is changing at the speed of light. Virtually every week we are learning new techniques and fresh truths about the way digital technologies are transforming the media,” Rusbridger is quoted in the release as saying. “By partnering with a well-established and respected university department” –Cardiff’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies is considered one of the leading journalism faculties in the UK– “we can offer a masters degree that will produce a generation of students who are completely up to date with the skills needed to succeed in journalism today,” he said.
The joint endeavour was initially the Guardian’s idea, but Cardiff is designing the course and selecting the students, according to a report by Wannabe Hacks, a news website run by aspiring journalists. The university is currently recruiting a Director of Studies who will be charged, with the help of an assortment of guest lecturers, with equipping the students with the journalism trade’s toolkit, from technical skills to writing and reporting, all with a focus on digital.
Will this new programme resemble the "teaching-hospital" model of journalism education advocated by CUNY journalism professor Jeff Jarvis? In a September 18 post for Nieman Lab’s back-to-j-school series on the Evolution of Journalism Education, Jarvis argued: “journalism schools should work with existing media enterprises and even create their own media enterprises in undercovered areas to provide the means for more practical education alongside both professionals and faculty.”
Because practice makes perfect, and because there are still quite a few journalists who hold that their vocation’s skill-set can only truly be learned on the job, this makes a lot of sense. Not to mention the fact that students represent an abundant source of free labour at a time when newsroom budgets are necessarily contracting.
In another piece for the same series, former Washington Post editor Leonard Downie Jr. points out that such practical training is integrated into the curricula of “a growing— but still too small— number of journalism schools” in the United States. He lists several universities whose student-run news services provide reporting to newspapers, television stations and websites, and several more that enable their students to produce work for news media partners. Nevertheless, Downie points out (as does Eric Newton of the Knight Foundation), that in order for established journalism faculties to truly follow the teaching-hospital approach, invasive surgery would be required.
Given that the Guardian/Cardiff programme is presently being built from the ground up, and half of the partnership is a news organisation whose website is among the top three in the world, it would be logical if the new Masters in Journalism and Digital Media University were founded in such an idea.
At the time of publication I had not yet managed to ascertain the level of access that students in the new masters programme will have to training opportunities within the Guardian. If you have information on this subject, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image of Cardiff University courtesy of Mark Turner via Flickr Creative Commons