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Journalism Department launches iPad app to showcase student work

Emerson’s Journalism Department recently became the first in the nation to successfully publish student work on an iPad application using Adobe Digital Publishing Suite. The application, called EC Journalism, is also available for Android and ePub users. Kindle, iBookstore, and ePub versions will be released soon.                                                               

The creation of the content and the app was part of Assistant Professor Paul Niwa’s Online Publishing class, an experimental journalism class for seniors and graduate students, which focused on the creation of the online magazine application during the Fall 2010 and Spring 2011 semesters. “To prepare our students for a career in journalism today, we have to think ahead about where the industry is moving,” said Niwa, who developed the idea for the class after reading that Adobe was offering a pre-released version of its new digital publishing software.


Emerson Journalism students created an iPad app as part of a course in online publishing.

According to a recent Nielsen Company survey, the growing popularity of connected devices—especially the iPad—is starting to change how people consume media. Niwa sees apps as a new outlet for storytelling. “Providing our students hands-on experience with touch screens, high-impact images, and tilting and readjusting screens gives them a whole new skill-set that will be invaluable as they begin their careers.”

Emerson students produced three magazine-style issues in Niwa’s class; each one includes a series of stories available on the EC Journalism app. The first one, “Mass Hands,” profiles master craftsmen in Massachusetts. “The New Normal” examines how the recession has affected Bostonians and changed their views of the American Dream. The third issue is “Mass Rethink,” which explores common stereotypes about Boston and reveals surprising facts about the city and its residents. While each issue focuses on local stories, the topics resonate on a national level.

The students worked in teams of two for each of the stories. Their pieces combine interviews shot in high-definition video, text, and slideshows with tools that are unique to tablets. “This was a chance to be part of something innovative and cutting-edge,” said recent journalism graduate Ben Bell, who worked on a story about engraving for the first issue. “The experience inspired our class to explore how to share stories in new and interesting ways using the tools and technology that are changing journalism.”

“The software that’s available now to create an online magazine experience is very user-friendly so our students don’t have to be technical experts to be reporters. They can still focus on good storytelling while developing their multimedia skills,” said Niwa.

Currently, it’s primarily large-scale national news and magazine outlets that have the knowledge and resources to create a digital tablet version of their publications. Niwa says he isn’t trying to compete with The New York Times or Washington Post, but he hopes that EC Journalism can inspire mid-size publishers to also create apps and share their content with the growing audience of digital users.

Niwa plans to offer Online Publishing again in Fall 2011, giving students the opportunity to develop and share new content on EC Journalism. For now, the student-produced app is available to download until August 4, 2011. Once it’s downloaded, the content is available indefinitely.

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