The Benefits of J-School: Journalists in the Classroom

j-school, cost, journalism school, education, writing

What is the true value of going to journalism school? Photo credit (with permission): Lisa Violet Williams

In this age of technology, anyone with a camera phone and access to the internet can share their stories online. So this presents the question- why go to journalism school?

Well, for this J-school student, the first three weeks of my formal education has been transformative for my potential as a story-teller.

Through my classes in the Journalism-New Media program at Sheridan College, I am gaining the confidence to venture outside the limitations of my comfort zone. Evolving from a print-style online magazine contributor, I am becoming a multimedia maverick comfortable using a spectrum of tools to tell any story.

But more than that, my mind is exploding with exciting and fresh story concepts, along with entirely innovative ways to tell these narratives. As Australian journalism student Saarah Jarvinen puts it, “I have realised that I am … alive and revived. Studying here at JSchool… has awakened the once semiconscious journalist and triggered the insatiable delight of hunting for stories.”

My studies have already opened my eyes to many things, including:

  • the importance of the journalist as a monitor of power and a conduit of truth to the citizens of her country
  • the factors to include when assessing an article idea, for example impact, proximity and immediacy
  • how to make the most of an SLR camera for both photography and video
  • the effect of editing on a video’s final message
  • ways to research beyond Google
  • programming timeline and map tools to share a story
  • possible User Generated Content sources

I am becoming very aware of the changing role of the journalist in the 21st century. In the past, the news reporter delivered the story to a passive audience watching at home on a couch or listening on the radio from the car. But now, the audience participates, comments, and creates its’ own content.

Given this shift, a journalist can incorporate material from people all over the world to create content. However, this comes with the duty to verify the truth of this information, and to ensure its relevance. I believe that soon the majority of media will be created drawing from online content, and then presented in a new form, with a focused narrative, back onto the internet.

Keeping this in mind, I aspire to accurately synthesize this voice of the online public with the development of unique stories. These pieces will approach their subjects with a critical perspective aimed at igniting further discussion. To do this well, this author needs to delve deeper into understanding the way social media plays with the emergence of news stories, and how citizens are becoming their own reporters. This is one way I expect the study of interactive journalism to change the way I think about contemporary story-telling.

One of the greatest attributes of Sheridan’s Journalism-New Media program is that classes are taught by a faculty with extensive experience directly related to the field of multimedia journalism. It is my hope that these instructors will equip me with the most important skills and knowledge I will need when I’m out reporting independently from challenging overseas environments or working with a team in a high pressure newsroom.

As well, I’d like to gain an honest appraisal of the ‘corporate culture’ of the various factions of the journalism world from our instructors, including what is acceptable in the way of appearance and diversity of subject matter. I see this as my first year in a new working environment, and hope it will propel me into the next step of my career as a writer.