Rethinking the role of journalism education

One of the key roles of the university has to foster critical thinking, graduating students who have the ability to ask the right questions and think through solutions to problems.

For the revival of the Carnival of Journalism, David Cohn has asked the journalist/scholar bloggers taking part to consider the place of the university in the information ecosystem.

Journalism schools are uniquely placed within the academic environment to play a leading role in rethinking how academia fits into news and information flows today.

Some journalism schools already are filling in gaps left by shrinking media. Our journalism students at the University of British Columbia do this, from covering local stories in Vancouver to producing in-depth, investigative work on international issues.

J-schools can go further than producing stories. After all, we are living in a time when the barriers to producing journalism are non-existent. In a participatory media culture, anyone can do an act of journalism.

As a result, what we consider journalism and who is producing it is evolving. Universities, and j-schools in particular, can make a critical contribution to enabling students to be informed citizens with the ability to apply a critical eye to the world around them.

The first step is helping students understand how the world of media is shifting and providing them with the theoretical framework and practical tools to be informed consumers of news and information.

This is just the start. The classroom provides a space to teach students how to be able to create media by applying some of the rigours of journalistic practice.

We need to recognise that journalism has gone beyond something that just happens in newsrooms. At universities, a broad array of people, from academics to students, are doing what could be called journalism.

There is, then, an opportunity for journalism schools to rethink their place within the university environment, approaching journalism as a space to be shared, rather than a profession to be defended.