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So shouts the headline of a recent National Times article by Katharine Murphy. In the article, she addresses the concerns of many who fear an impending demise of the field.
“Printed newspapers might be entering their twilight ... but journalism is not down for the count,” writes Murphy. “Journalism's future is digital; this transformation is required to sustain our enterprise.”
One place where that fact is of extreme importance is in the institutions whose task it is to prepare the next generation of journalists for a career during a time of exponentially advancing technology.
The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University strives to do just that. It is their mission to be “the journalism school for the digital age” and train undergraduate and graduate students as multi-media journalists and communicators who are well-prepared to enter today’s changing media landscape with the skills necessary to adapt to the field of the future.
In 2008, The Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation awarded a $7.5 million grant to Arizona State University to direct the News21 initiative – a bold, experimental digital media program in cooperation with 12 leading U.S. universities. Later, in 2011, the two organizations announced a separate $2.32 million grant to make ASU not only the headquarters for the program, but the national incubator for the next decade. The program is now open to competitively selected students from all journalism schools.
The News21 program was founded in 2005 with the hopes of changing the way journalism is taught in the United States in order to produce students capable of reshaping the struggling news industry and bringing it into the digital age.
One of the original five member schools to participate in News21 was fellow Pac-12 school University of California at Berkeley. Robert Gunnison, director of Cal's School Affairs, describes their graduate journalism program as “an intensive multi-media program that focuses on the digital aspect of journalism while still honoring the traditional principles of news reporting.”
It appears that approach is working – just this month, UC Berkeley News21 student Catherine Traywick reported on an American company’s proposed expansion into the Philippine mining industry, which was published on Time.com.
Meanwhile, this past summer ASU saw the News21 initiative bringing together top journalism students from 11 universities across the country to conduct a national investigative report on voting rights. The project, titled “Who Can Vote?” garnered much national attention, with stories from the project published by the Washington Post, msnbc.com, NPR and the Center for Public Integrity, among other prominent media outlets.
Besides the opportunities provided by News21, Cronkite students have had the privilege of getting hands-on experience in the school’s several other innovative professional programs, which include Cronkite NewsWatch, a live, 30-minute newscast airing on Arizona PBS four nights a week; Cronkite News Service, now with a brand-new Washington news bureau that allows students to report from the nation's capital on the most critical issues affecting the country; and the New Media Innovation Lab, a research and development lab that pioneers cutting-edge digital innovations for major media companies.
“All of these exciting initiatives are happening in a spectacular new facility in the center of the nation’s sixth-largest city,” says Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan, referencing the school’s downtown Phoenix location. And with the school’s new career development center, he believes students will have even greater opportunities for success. “Because, after all, the most important measure of a professional journalism program is where students go after graduation and beyond.”