Sunday, March 22, 2009

The media is all one thing: deal with it, education

The City University of New York (CUNY) is no longer getting its Journalism students to commit to a “medium” - broadcast, print, etc. because of convergence and the idea that “all media (have) become one.”

CUNY instructor and former TV Guide reporter Jeff Jarvis explains the decision here.

Agree or not, and I do, it’s an interesting discussion - and one that I would say is overdue at Red River College. Let's see if perhaps I can get the ball rolling...

Majorless doesn't mean directionless

At Red River College, the Creative Communications program has its students major in Journalism, Advertising, PR, or Broadcast in the second year. This strikes me as an outdated model. Aren't they all the same thing now?

Although CUNY's program is clearly not a direct comparison to “the majors” we offer in Creative Communications, I think that the larger points about the media becoming one thing, new media being the competitive edge in the industry, and the idea that students who choose a subject area in one track end up working in “any” track are very pertinent to what we teach, across the CreComm program.

The rapidly changing communications industry is something that communications instructors, like me, need to talk about all the time – and how it should impact what we offer students in terms of courses and majors, and even how we teach them.

For instance, I know from my freelance work that clients want and expect a full new-media approach: Facebook, Blogger, WordPress, Twitter, YouTube, craigslist, and - whatever the next thing happens to be. It's all or nothing now, baby.

Likewise, clients expect that students will know how to use new media when they graduate from our program. Based on the new-media campaign that PR instructor Melanie Lee Lockhart and I rolled out in PR class this semester: our students may use new media every day, but that doesn't mean that they necessarily know how to harness that power for a client. That, my friends, is where education comes in.

I'm going to start the discussion at Red River College, and we'll see where it leads. My experience with the college is very positive: the instructors are forward thinking and want what's best for students and their careers.

Clearly, a knowledge of new media, and how to use it will separate the communications professional of tomorrow from the communications professional of yesterday.

To be continued.

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