Print Journalism majors look to future

Mar 4th, 2009 | By | Category: Campus News, Features

Nathanael Edward Bassett

Journalism is a field in transition, as many news outlets are moving toward media convergence – the combining of traditional print media, radio, and television, all delivered to audiences online.

With this transition, many traditional print outlets are facing serious declines in advertising revenue. And the job prospects for potential print journalists looks dim, as many newspapers and magazines are either making major layoffs or closing altogether.

With this in mind, why would any student major in print journalism?

Well, there are nearly a hundred students at Missouri State in the Print Journalism degree program, and as one student jokingly put it, “We’re screwed.”

Many are disheartened by the struggles of the industry and the job market, as circulation numbers for many national papers has been declining for decades.

“(I’m) definitely not optimistic about the potential to actually get a job in journalism,” said Zane Debunk, print journalism major.

And indeed, looking for a job with a newspaper is a challenge, and climbing the ladder means a lot of work and moving to a major city where the competition is tough.

It’s common for newspapers to have an online edition, with features and content such as video, podcasts and frequent updates.

Most journalists are expected to be “backpack” journalists, always on the move and utilizing web tools to keep their readers in the know, with dynamic content people can comment and participate with online.

This is a far cry from the traditional work of a reporter in decades past, who only worked in one media.

Students involved with the print journalism program are aware of the challenges they are facing in the future and know they’ll need training in web journalism and internet tools in order to stay ahead of the pack.

To this end, Missouri State faculty have created experimental classes that cover these subjects.

However, some instructors are taking it a step further.

The jobs journalism students will be asked to do in the future will be nothing like those of the past, according to journalism professor Dr. Andrew Cline. Because of this, he requires all students in his classes to keep a media web log. This provides a great training tool for preparing students for job opportunities that will require those skills.

But Dr. Cline is not the only one who is concerned about the future of his students.

He says that faculty in the journalism department meet regularly to check over the program and be sure it’s meeting the needs of the students.

Thanks to these meetings, they’ve implemented incremental changes in the program over the years.

For instance, in Dr. Cline’s photojournalism course, video has been integrated into the course work, helping the students become more familiar with the tools that are fast becoming vital to any aspiring journalist.

Despite all the technological changes in the industry, the print journalism faculty are optimistic about the future. While the popular notion is that the web has destroyed print journalism, Dr. Cline said it instead presents a “situation to make journalism better than it’s ever been. It’s the dawning of a great new age.”

Rather than focus on the decline in print journalism jobs, students in Dr. Cline’s class see the situation as an evolution of journalism rather than an extinction. Most are eager for more web journalism courses and would like to see some of the experimental classes become a regular part of the degree.

However, most of the print journalism students agree that the program still teaches the core journalistic skills, which, as Dr. Cline says, do not and will not change.

Media convergence, though, is drastically changing the world of journalism. Today, people expect not only to read their news, but also hear and see it, as well as participate in it.

This revolutionary change that is taking place in the news media is also slowly transforming the print journalism program at Missouri State.

As time goes on, students with a degree in print journalism can expect to be better prepared than the reporters of the past, and this will enable them to secure futures in a market that is rapidly evolving.

If Dr. Cline is right, the nation may “finally reach a day in which a greater number of people will recognize themselves in the news.”

According to Dr. Cline, the news has traditionally given us the information we need to be free and self governing. If we are able to see ourselves in the news, then perhaps we will lose feelings of apathy and un-involvement in our society. The future of journalism may not be the loss of the industry, but the chance for people to better relate to their community and improve the world.

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