As a fresh crop of college graduates steps off the stage, broadcast journalism diplomas in hand and an eye on a television job, they hit the ground with a full arsenal of digital tools unlike any group of grads before them. Newly minted grads of the primary broadcast feeder schools are among the first classes to learn a Web-first philosophy essentially from their first day on campus.
Educators are evolving their curricula to give students the best possible chance to succeed in a media environment that changes every day. “I often tell students, we don’t know what they need to know five or 10 years after they graduate,” says Chris Tuohey, department chair of broadcast and digital journalism at Syracuse’s Newhouse School. “But we know what you need to be employable.”
Once they land a TV job, the grads must then be “flexible enough to accept what the world needs in the future,” he adds.
Top media colleges are challenged to figure out what among the newer communications trends—whether it’s a keeper such as Twitter, or a novelty, such as Google Glass—merit a spot in the curriculum. But the overall philosophy of digital-first is prevalent. At Ohio University, a broadcast journalism major has given way to a broader “News and Information” one, and Mary Rogus, associate professor of electronic journalism, was associate professor of broadcast only four years ago. “The industry has changed, consumers have changed, and we need to be sure students are prepared for what they’ll face,” she says.
Pitching in on a noon newscast on the local PBS station, students at OU essentially learn all the jobs in a TV newsroom, along with shooting and editing video. “Their freshman year, they’re learning not only AP Style, but Final Cut Pro,” says Rogus.
At the University of Missouri, where journalism students work at NBC affiliate KOMU, there’s a class called Advanced Internet Skills for Radio and TV. Students are trained to use Facebook and Twitter in every step of their stories, from seeking sources to promoting the work. “They see the value of the Internet and social media inside a traditional TV station,” says Kent Collins, chairman of radio and television in the journalism faculty.
New Take on News
The students may view local news as something their parents watch, but they continue to be drawn to jobs in that realm, insist the educators. KOMU hosted recruiters from 10 major broadcasters, including Scripps, Hearst TV and Tribune. Stations are where students’ video storytelling skills are valued, and the allure of appearing on camera remains timeless. “They are absolutely gung-ho about working in television,” says Rogus.
But the digital natives will make their own mark on the TV world, where, despite constant chatter about shaking up the formula, newscasts look pretty similar to how they did before the students were born. “They’re less married to putting a story together for the 6 p.m. news, but we do see them putting stories together for Web and mobile,” says Tuohey. “They enjoy the concept of a newscast, but are not limited to that as an outlet for the work they do.”
THE MAYOR MAKES TIME FOR TV
Evansville (Ind.) Mayor Lloyd Winnecke may have an edge as he heads into his reelection campaign—he’s the incumbent, for starters, and he’s particularly good with the media. Winnecke spent 18 years in local TV, from an internship at WFIE Evansville to a news director job across the street at WEHT, before departing for a communications position with a bank.
He admits he had trouble adjusting to bankers’ hours. “I couldn’t understand why everyone left at 5,” says Winnecke. “The day would just be getting interesting in television.”
The mayor believes he’s more accessible to the media as a result of his prior career, and says TV taught him to communicate clearly and succinctly. “You make your point and move on,” he says.
Evansville gets another news player this summer (see “Fifth Estater,” page 24), and Winnecke will be watching. Does he still critique newscasts 17 years after doing so professionally? “Yes,” says Winnecke. “That’d be a quick yes.”
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