JUGGLING AND JOURNALISM EDUCATION: THE INTRODUCTION OF ONLINE JOURNALISM IN A CHANGING CURRICULUM

J. Smith

Ryerson University (CANADA)
In 2001 I began constructing a new series of courses teaching students how to report and edit for what was then known as online journalism. Since that time, my school has undergone two significant undergraduate curricular changes as well as the phasing out of one degree program and the implementation of a new Masters program. All of this has taken place against a backdrop of corporate media convergence and a major swing in the nature of journalism and technologies used in its production and dissemination. Each cohort of students has arrived with its own faster use of increasingly mobile technology... which does not, however, always translate into more comfort with applications specific to news reporting.

Despite the initial plans, online journalism has not remained isolated in a few specific courses. The growing importance of the area has resulted in a rethinking of all undergraduate and graduate courses as we prepare students to enter a workplace where old divisions dictated by medium platform make little sense. The decisions my colleagues and I have made – while occasioned by technological changes – have resulted in fundamental re-commitments to core skills and concepts foundational to good journalism in all forms in all eras: truth-telling, interviewing, curiosity and researching.

This paper will discuss the challenges and opportunities flowing from the introduction of a new ‘stream’ to traditional, professionally-focused programs. Included will be an analysis of the effect of legacy equipment, the retraining of technical support staff as well as faculty members, the constant re-evaluation of the abilities of incoming students and the shifting demands of potential employers.

Most importantly, the nature of juggling an evolving curriculum will be discussed, with some suggestions given for how to keep all the balls in the air!