A breath of fresh air

Melissa Macaya

Throughout my journalism education at UT and various internships, I have firmly believed that journalism is not dying but rather is changing in new and exciting ways. As I prepare to graduate and enter the professional world in one month, it is comforting to see those changes acknowledged at the School of Journalism.

The department is undertaking the biggest change to its curriculum in almost 20 years and moving across the street to the state-of-the-art Belo Center for New Media. Rather than selecting one structured track in topics such as print or broadcast, students will now undertake five levels of coursework where they will learn multiple storytelling techniques, create their own digital portfolio, complete a senior capstone and participate in an internship. Students will also still be instructed in the basics of writing and media ethics.

The “new digital-based, state-of-the-art curriculum,” as it is described on the website, is a breath of fresh air for the University and symbolizes the vitality of journalism in both the academic and professional realms. The shift also represents a wave of change toward positive modernization and away from the pessimistic rhetoric that has been plaguing the media environment for the past five years. Multiple journalism schools around the nation, such as Columbia University and the University of Missouri, have also made curriculum changes.

Although the new curriculum’s focus on digital skills is essential, it is also instrumental that the department continue to stress the importance of courses that are theme-oriented and provide students with the critical thinking skills they need to navigate complex reporting scenarios. Critical skills, not equipment or video skills, help a journalist report a story in a thorough way. Even more of these courses should be added to the curriculum.

During my four years at the School of Journalism, it was the courses that taught me about journalism’s role in historical, international, political and social processes that I found most valuable. Through my certificate in Latino Media Studies, I learned about the press’s role in Hispanic and Latin American communities. These types of academic opportunities help give the contextual knowledge needed to effectively report a multifaceted topic.

The department must also expand its study abroad opportunities and internship partnerships across the country. Annual summer internships at local and national news organizations could be set aside for UT students. A journalism career fair organized in partnership with prominent news organizations would also be very beneficial to graduating students. The school currently supports three short study abroad programs in China, the Czech Republic and Austria. In order for students to report about the world and their communities, they must see the world. International experiences, alongside skills acquired in the classroom, will help create even more well-rounded journalists.

As I have discovered in my undergraduate career, the traditional lines of print, broadcast and Web are long gone. The path is now the convergence of all of these. This merging has created an industry that is exciting, quick, creative and challenging. This path does not lead to death, as many would like to believe, but opportunity. There are now unparalleled ways to tell stories in even more engaging and powerful mediums. Students at journalism schools are now at the center of this change and can even be creators of new storytelling techniques.

Although I will not be able to take advantage of the curriculum changes, I am proud to be part of a department that not only embraces change, but creates it as well. I am looking forward to seeing the results in future generations.

Macaya is a journalism and Latin American studies senior.