Mediatwits #91: Back to J-School: Degree Needed?; MOOCs, Online Learning, Digital Skills

    by Zach C. Cohen
    August 23, 2013
    PBS MediaShift's executive editor Mark Glaser will once again host the Mediatwits podcast live at 10:30 am PT Friday. Original photo by Paul Goyette and used here with Creative Commons.

    Digital disruption has changed the landscape of the media world, and journalism and communication schools need to figure out how to educate in a time of vast change. The schools themselves need to change too, or risk falling behind. As part of this week’s special “Back to J-School 2013,” in-depth report at MediaShift, this episode of the Mediatwits will talk to students and professors alike on the value of a journalism education, the future of education innovation and more. Special guests this week are Howard Finberg, creator of NewsU at the Poynter Institute; Eva Avenue, former editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo at the University of New Mexico; and San Diego State University professor and Knight Center MOOC coordinator Amy Schmitz Weiss. MediaShift’s Mark Glaser hosts, along with Andrew Lih from American University.

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    "Journalism and communication schools need to figure out how to educate in a time of vast change."


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    Mediatwits Bios

    ana marie cox headshot
    Ana Marie Cox is a senior political columnist for The Guardian. She is the founding editor of the Wonkette blog and has covered politics and the culture of Washington, D.C. for outlets including the Washington Post, Playboy, GQ, Mother Jones and Elle. She is the author of the novel “Dog Days” and lives in St. Paul, Minn. Follow her on Twitter @anamariecox.mark glaser ISOJ headshot

    Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He is a longtime freelance writer and editor, who has contributed to magazines such as Entertainment Weekly, Wired and Conde Nast Traveler, and websites such as CNET and the Yale Global Forum. He lives in San Francisco with his wife Renee and son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.monica guzman

    Mónica Guzmán is a columnist for the Seattle Times and Northwest tech news site GeekWire and a community strategist for startups and media. She emcees Ignite Seattle, a grab-bag community-fueled speaker series. Mónica was a reporter at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and seattlepi.com, its online-only successor, where she ran the experimental and award-winning Big Blog and drew a community of readers with online conversation and weekly meetups. Follow her on Twitter @moniguzman.AndrewLih_270x210

    Andrew Lih is a new media journalist and associate professor of journalism at the American University School of Communication. He is the author of “The Wikipedia Revolution” (Hyperion 2009, Aurum UK 2009) and is a noted expert on online collaboration and journalism. He is a veteran of AT&T Bell Laboratories and in 1994 created the first online city guide for New York City (www.ny.com). Follow him on Twitter @fuzheado and buy his book here.

    Special Guests

    Howard FinbergHoward Finberg has been in journalism for 40 years. His resume includes positions with the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and The Arizona Republic. He was the presidential scholar at Poynter in 2002 and joined Poynter full-time in 2003 to create its e-learning project, News University. In 2012 he became the Institute’s director of partnerships and alliances. His Twitter account is @Hif.

    Amy Schmitz WeissAmy Schmitz Weiss is an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Media Studies at San Diego State University. Schmitz Weiss is a 2011 Dart Academic Fellow and has a Ph.D. in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. She teaches journalism courses in basic writing and editing, multimedia, web design, data journalism and mobile journalism. She is also the 2011-2012 Recipient of the AEJMC Bridge Grant with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation that led to the creation of a mobile news app, AzteCast, for the San Diego State University campus population in spring 2012. She also is a former journalist who has been involved in new media for more than a decade. She has worked in business development, marketing analysis and account management for several Chicago Internet media firms. Her research interests include online journalism, media sociology, news production, multimedia journalism and international communication. Contact her at [email protected].

    Eva AvenueEva Avenue, who was born in an attic in Amsterdam, works daily in the fields of art, music and journalism. She has written about everything ranging from local and national politics to personality features and Buddhist haikus for a large variety of newspapers, magazines and online publications. She is currently managing editor of Pyragraph.com (running first-hand stories, tips and advice from professional creatives and working artists), publisher of the Nightly Noodle Monthly, an art and world philosophy zine, and she just moved from New Orleans to New Mexico where she just got an internship at SITE Santa Fe, one of her favorite contemporary art spaces in America.

    Podcast topics

    1. Do students need to go to journalism school to be journalists?

    The very presence of J-schools in a journalist’s education are in question. A new survey from Poynter’s NewsU indicates that professors see their job as crucial to teaching student journalists skills and ethics needed to get a job. But professionals aren’t as sure, noting that many of their new hires have to learn on the job, especially as newsrooms continue to change and innovate. Some students, like special guest Eva Avenue, spurned J-school and instead pursued practical journalism education at a student newspaper or at an internship.

    Are J-schools in danger of becoming extinct, as special guest Howard Finberg has suggested? What do they need to do to innovate and stay relevant?

    2. New forms of teaching, MOOCs, online learning

    If there’s any other industry that’s transforming besides journalism, it’s higher education. The growth of massive open online courses (MOOCs) seem to be all the rage, but leave professors and university administrations worried about students’ education and the bottom line. The Knight Center has already tried out teaching data visualization via a MOOC. Special guest Amy Schmitz Weiss runs a MOOC on popular data. Special guest Howard Finberg also sought to turn J-school education on its head by creating a shared Journalism 101 class, an online curriculum for journalism basics, but it failed when too many J-schools expressed apprehension for its place in the classroom.

    Do online courses have a place in J-school? How should they be used? Will MOOCs or programs like NewsU’s Journalism 101 be the future of journalism training?

    3. What skills should journalists learn in school today?

    Professors have to decide as they head into the next semester and the next decade how to upgrade their syllabi to meet the journalism’s industry challenges and properly train their students.

    What should they teach, and how? Media ethics? Fair use? Interviewing? Writing? Breaking news? Investigative reporting? Data visualization? Necessary tools? Web skills? Entrepreneurship? Business savvy? Multimedia? Social Media?

    What is the professor’s role in a j-school classroom? Should they be instructors, mentors, editors or publishers?

    Back to J-School 2013

    Why We Need Radical Change for Media Ethics, Not a Return to Basics, by Stephen Ward

    Outsourcing Journalism 101: NewsU’s Experiment Falters, But Signals a Change, by Alexa Capeloto

    A Multitude of Platforms Give Educators Tools to Showcase Student Work, by Susan Currie Sivek

    Forcing Students to Step Outside Their Comfort Zone in Jerusalem, by Rachele Kanigel


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    Zach C. Cohen is an editorial intern for PBS MediaShift studying abroad at la Universidad Nacional in Heredia, Costa Rica. Get regular updates from @Zachary_Cohen on Twitter or on his blog.

    Tagged: Amy Schmitz Weiss education educators eva avenue howard finberg innovation j-school journalism newsu poynter professors students universities

    One response to “Mediatwits #91: Back to J-School: Degree Needed?; MOOCs, Online Learning, Digital Skills”

    1. That’s a really helpful article. Thanks for sharing.

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