Curricular Change and Citizen-Centered Journalism: An Examination of Eight University Initiatives



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Today’s journalism school graduates are entering a different world, and a tougher job market, than their predecessors did at the turn of the 20th century. The number of available positions for them has declined as print media has been overtaken by online publications. In addition, citizens are more critical than ever of journalism. In this Kettering Foundation Working Paper, Lee B. Becker, of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia, suggests that these changes would seem to dictate that journalism education reconsider both its constituency and its relationship with society at large.

This report examines eight different journalism programs around the United States in which there has been curricular experimentation that incorporates concerns about (1) the changing nature of journalism, (2) the journalism labor market, (3) journalism education, and (4) the relationship between journalism and citizens. The following schools were examined: the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky; the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno; the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California; the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University; the Journalism + Design program at the New School in New York; the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University in Milwaukee; the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; and the journalism program at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

These universities have made efforts to change their curricula to embrace citizens in a new way. As such, they are at least to some extent critical of what has been done in the past. And they are suggestive of what might be done in the future. Their experiments suggest that a more citizen-centered journalism, that is a journalism that is more cognizant of the needs of citizens and more embracing of citizens and their products, is in order. By extension, these changes suggest the need for a more citizen-centered journalism education.

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