There have been a lot of stories and editorials in the media lately about our proposed plans for journalism education at the University of Colorado Boulder and I would like to take this opportunity to elaborate on those plans.
I am recommending that future journalists educated at CU-Boulder pursue a double major in journalism and another discipline, or alternatively pursue a major in a discipline with a certificate or minor in journalism.
At the same time, I am recommending we revitalize the journalism curriculum, infusing it with cutting-edge coursework that teaches journalists newsgathering and news packaging skills for the digital age. I have proposed these changes to CU President Bruce Benson, who will make his recommendation to the Board of Regents by April 14.
I believe this approach will position CU-educated journalists apart from their peers in career preparation. Our graduates will not only bring the basic skills of journalism and mass communication, they will bring the background knowledge, perspectives, and ideas taken from content-rich disciplines like political science, economics, international affairs or environmental studies.
Yet, the required journalism curriculum will remain at a minimum of 28 credit hours, and in most cases, the graduation requirement will be 120 hours as it is now, enabling students to graduate in four years as many do today.
The journalism curriculum will still be grounded in the basic tenets of the journalism craft: reporting, ethics, fairness and objectivity. But imagine the professional demand for a trained business journalist with an economics degree, the value of a government reporter with a political science degree, an advertising professional with a degree in art or business marketing, or a science writer who studied under CU-Boulder Nobel Prize winner Tom Cech.
Tying together journalism with content-rich degrees will make stronger journalists, editors and media professionals. In recent dialogues with working media professionals, most have told us they do not need graduates more adept at using technology. Rather, they crave journalists who are critical thinkers, who can make sense of the news, and who can carefully explain the rapidly changing world around them with precise, nuanced and contextual reporting.
Consider that journalism legends Bob Woodward, Diane Sawyer and Tom Brokaw all earned liberal arts degrees, as did notables like Wolf Blitzer, Malcolm Gladwell, Maureen Dowd, and Carl Quintanilla of NBC News, who has a CU-Boulder political science degree.
Students should know that we are proposing to maintain the current journalism curriculum for students currently enrolled in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, as well as those admitted next fall. They will be able to complete their degree track by May 2013. Pre-journalism students will be part of the new framework of journalism education at CU.
In the meantime, we are carefully considering recommendations by an exploratory committee for a new school of information, communication and media technology. This vision would, down the road, place journalism within an interdisciplinary school, further exposing our students to a range of new ideas, technologies and curricula.
This proposed new journalism education does not, as some have asserted, “end” journalism at CU-Boulder. Indeed, it transforms and revitalizes it, adding a content-rich degree to better prepare students to compete in journalism’s new age, but more importantly, to better explain our changing world to us in all its complexities.
Philip P. DiStefano is chancellor of the University of Colorado Boulder.