Networked Journalism Education

Maybe the idea is “civic literacy”

without comments

Jay Rosen addressed a media conference in Australia today over Skype and the headline quote was:

“If you don’t have a democratic heart, you don’t belong in journalism in the first place.”

I don’t have the book with me, but I remember an argument by Herbert Gans in “Democracy and the News” that in essence said if journalists were serious about contributing to democracy they would do their work very differently. The argument for journalism serving democratic functions is easy to make in the abstract but nearly impossible to justify in close examination across a range of news.

What if this was the moment to change that? What if journalism schools made democratic action a serious pledge instead of an assumed byproduct?  Instead of gearing up to teach media literacy or news literacy, we decided “civic literacy” was a course that would most closely address the needs of our country.  Not a sales job or a snow job, but a critical fire-in-the-belly context-driven passionate course on democracy open to all students at the university. Once students understood the essentially political act of journalism in this context they could decide their relationship to it: passive observer, occassional participant, active creator (presumably all three at different times on different subjects).

Every course in the j-school could then relate to the primary course in some fashion, expanding on some aspect of journalism that had a discernible thread back to purpose. The j-school could provide specializations in watchdog journalism, community journalism, environmental journalism. Courses could be part of ‘centers’ of engagement with live projects and subjects, ongoing experiments in active public life.

For some vivid examples, watch the videos on “Song of a Citizen,” such as this one of Michael X. Delli Carpini, dean of the Annenburg School of Communication at the University of Pennsyvlania or this one by Michael Sandel. Is this central link between self, citizen, institutions and journalism not a critical element of a journalism education?

We constantly make connections between journalism and democracy (despite derision from many political scientists) and we are about to conduct a giant experiment with live subjects on what happens to a society that makes a sudden downshift in journalistic output. New journalistic forms are springing up all around us but they will only flourish to the extent that a sizeable group of citizens support them.

As Cole Campbell used to remind us, it’s not journalism that’s struggling as much as public life. Rosen reminded us today of the strong link between them. Why not make that connection the core of our curriculum?

Written by Donica

November 6th, 2009 at 11:02 am

Leave a Reply