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New journalism curriculum reflects industry changes

Emerson has a reputation for graduating leaders in the journalism field. In Boston alone, Emerson graduates are presently working at major print publications, and hold positions both on air and behind the scenes at every news station in the city (one of the top 10 markets in the country).

Notable journalism alumni include: Katy Jordan ’10, a reporter and multimedia producer at the Boston Herald, whose popular blog “Katy on the Campaign Trail” is a mixture of political news and videos; Jaweed Kaleem ’07, a former features reporter at the Miami Herald, who was recently named the religion reporter for the Huffington Post’s newly established reporting team; and Brendan McCarthy '04, a staff writer at The Times-Picayune and 2009 Pulitzer Prize finalist, who was awarded the 2011 George Polk Award in Journalism.

To remain in the forefront of journalism education, Emerson has announced a sweeping new curriculum reflecting the significant new opportunities and technologies available to the profession.

In today’s news market, journalists need multiple skills—from writing, researching, and fact checking to producing and editing video and audio components, as well as knowledge of social media, mobile platforms, and the iPad. The new curriculum will no longer separate broadcast and print journalism into different tracks. Instead, students are encouraged to look at these platforms in a holistic way and seek optimal ways of reporting and presenting stories that incorporate words, images, and sound in one seamless narrative.

journalism student interviews for a story

Journalism alum Jack Encarnacao ’05 covering a story as a student at Emerson. Today, he’s a reporter at the Patriot Ledger.

The new curriculum also seeks to prepare students for greater professional and economic independence as the newsroom increasingly gives way to the virtual newsroom and so-called “backpack journalism.” Students will learn how to pitch story ideas and create a budget, along with the myriad skills required for successful freelance projects.

In addition to offering 14 new courses, the revised Journalism curriculum is compressed and accelerated to keep pace with the changing landscape of newsgathering and storytelling. Students are immediately immersed in hands-on reporting, and by the end of their third semester, will have a solid multimedia foundation to build on. During their sophomore and junior years, students can pursue particular areas of interest, such as beat reporting, public affairs, and sports reporting.

“Changing the curriculum has been challenging, but also invigorating,” said Journalism Department Chair Ted Gup. “Faculty and administrators have been extremely supportive during this transition, and the students are energized by the changes that allow them more flexibility and a chance to get real-world experience even earlier than before.”

During their senior year, students will take a capstone course. New capstone offerings include Deep Reporting, which gives them an opportunity to dive into investigative and profile stories, and Backpack Journalism, which will cover the production of stories as a freelance reporter. Emerson has also partnered with the Boston Globe, which will allow students to cover community events in deadline situations and see their work published in the paper’s “Your Town” section. The Journalism Department is also adding a 1-credit internship to allow students even more opportunities to work directly in the field.

The new curriculum incorporates technological advances while maintaining the core skills (good writing, professionalism, and service to the community) and rigorous ethical values that have always been a part of the best journalism. For Gup and the Journalism faculty, there’s an intellectual and historical appreciation that are essential in order to preserve the field. “Our hope is to continue to position Emerson graduates as leaders and influencers in the profession. It's important for our curriculum to continue to evolve with the industry,” said Gup.

The new Journalism curriculum will officially begin in Fall 2011. However, new courses and the accelerated curriculum are being offered to current Journalism students. Students who came to Emerson under the previous curriculum are encouraged to take advantage of the new curriculum, but are grandfathered in and will graduate on schedule, with no additional requirements.

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