UT journalism alters studies to emphasize future of field

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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.”