media platforms

Photo Credit: Xintong Guo | Daily Texan Staff

A legacy media company, such as National Geographic, has to reach people across different media platforms to stay relevant, according to Gary Knell, president and CEO of National Geographic. 

Knell spoke Wednesday at an Undergraduate Business Council event to discuss the challenges of leading National Geographic. Knell said National Geographic has to embrace change to fulfill its mission as an educational nonprofit with a global audience. 

“Different people need different media,” Knell said. “In my view, we have to be platform-agnostic, and it’s not one or the other — it’s all of the above.”  

Knell said companies such as Kodak and Encyclopædia Britannica went bankrupt because they would not change. 

“There are a lot of brands that your parents knew about and that you’ll know about because they disappeared,” said Knell. “Kodak is a good example. … They didn’t get in the digital game; they didn’t make the switch. They are like pretty much gone.” 

Knell said National Geographic has expanded its educational mission by working with other companies, such as Rolex and Shell, to advocate for corporate social responsibility. 

“It’s much more about corporate social responsibility and connecting with a company like Rolex, who we work with around ocean preservation, and Shell, [whom] we’ve done some work with in terms of energy issues,” Knell said. 

Accounting senior Mandy Albrecht, the chair of the VIP Distinguished Speaker Series, said Knell made what she learned in the classroom relevant. 

“I really appreciated how he drew in social media in talking about how everything is changing,” Albrecht said. “He brought in relevant cases like Kodak that we’ve studied in school as business majors. Bringing in that into what he was talking about made it relevant to what I was learning in my classroom.” 

Environmental science junior Kali Miller said Knell’s work at Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization that produces Sesame Street, demonstrated his commitment to cultural diversity. 

“He started a program in India, and … everything was spot-on, and it wasn’t this American program that was being translated,” Miller said. “So I think that’s a useful way — being able to correctly represent an idea — is by immersing yourself in whatever you’re trying to represent.”

The School of Journalism approved the biggest change to its curriculum in almost 20 years to better prepare future journalists for the evolving media platforms.

The revised curriculum received unanimous approval by the 22 faculty members present at Wednesday’s faculty council meeting. If approved by the Office of the Dean of the College of Communication and the Office of the Provost, the new curriculum will be implemented 2012 at the same time the school moves into the Belo Center for New Media. The building will include a multimedia newsroom, an agency-grade creative room and a 75-seat briefing room.

The new curriculum is broken into five levels, beginning with foundation courses concerning current media technology and ending with professional practice courses that will help students build their portfolios, said Wanda Cash, a clinical journalism professor who led the curriculum reform committee.

“This curriculum change is a historic step forward for the School of Journalism,” Cash said. “We’ll be teaching the traditional, core values of journalism while we explore new ways to tell stories.”

School of Journalism Director Glenn Frankel said the current curriculum is grounded on specialized degree plans in sequences. Currently, journalism students select one of four tracks — print, broadcast, photo or multimedia.

Frankel said the narrow focus of the sequences is no longer the most sufficient method to prepare students because journalism has greatly evolved since the last curriculum change in 1993.

“The digital revolution has shaken journalism to its roots and changed its nature, the way we do it, the platforms we do it on and our relationship to the people we used to call the audience,” Frankel said. “The curriculum of a good journalism school needs to reflect those changes.”

Frankel said the new curriculum is streamlining the number of courses from roughly 75 to 50. He said the reduction will give students a more straightforward program to help them better focus their studies.

Ashlei King, a reporter for ABC News Abilene and 2010 UT broadcast journalism alumna, said she could have benefited from courses in different journalism platforms, such as photography, because she is required to do more than report.

“I have to write for TV, and I have to write for the web so the intro reporting courses I took have definitely helped,” she said. “If something comes up, I may use my cell phone to snap a picture but knowing how to operate certain camera kits is going to be necessary.”