What is a digital or multimedia journalism program curriculum?

Digital or multimedia journalism programs tend to equally emphasize two basic skill sets in their curriculum: (a) news writing and reporting; (b) digital/multimedia journalism. They also require students to take courses in ethics, law, and introductory courses in journalism and media. However, television or broadcast is usually not part of the mandatory core and/or required-of-all courses.

This finding is based on an analysis of “fully integrated” digital/multimedia journalism programs at eight universities: Arizona State University, Auburn University, Denver University, Emerson College, University of Iowa, Kansas State University, University of Texas at Austin, and Washington State University.

These programs are included in the analysis because they are “fully integrated” with digital or multimedia journalism, and they all have a structured curriculum.

What is a “fully integrated” digital or multimedia journalism program?

“Fully integrated” is a category, along with three others, that is used in the list of digital or multimedia journalism programs in U.S. that I have been compiling. For a program to be considered as “fully integrated,” it needs to (a) break down the boundaries among conventional platforms such as print and broadcast; (b) have dedicated digital/multimedia journalism courses that are required of all students.

This definition works well in identifying journalism programs that have fully embraced the ongoing digital transition in the industry. However, the definition has its limitations: it cannot ascertain the degree or depth of the “integration.” Under this definition, a “fully integrated” program may have as few as one dedicated digital/multimedia journalism course, whereas another “fully integrated” program may have multiple such courses.

How is a “fully integrated” curriculum structured?

As of July 10, among the 87 programs on the list of digital or multimedia journalism programs, there are 40 “fully integrated” programs. When examining the 40 “fully integrated” programs, one can find two basic ways with which a curriculum is structured.

For some programs, the curriculum is divided into two parts: required courses and elective courses. For other programs, the curriculum is fine-tuned into several sections, which may include “foundation course,” “basic skill course,” “advanced skill course,” “topical cluster.” It’s worth noting that “foundation courses” and “basic skill courses” are usually listed as mandatory core and/or required courses, and are small in number.

  • Foundation courses: introductory courses in journalism or media, law, ethics.
  • (basic) Skill courses: writing, reporting, digital/multimedia skills
  • Advanced skill courses: advanced writing/reporting, video/audio, photo, editing, design, etc.; students are required to choose specified number of courses from this (larger) group of courses.
  • Topical cluster: some programs may require or encourage students to take courses in specific content area such as “public affairs,” “sports,” “politics,” “culture,” etc.

The “core” of a curriculum: What is being emphasized the most?

The mandatory core or required courses are the best indicators of what is being emphasized in a curriculum, as they are limited in number and are required of all students. Again, among the eight programs in this analysis, the mandatory core/required courses are usually the basic skill courses and the foundation courses.

Two observations emerge from an examination of the core/required courses:

  1. Among the 28 basic skill courses of the eight programs, the obvious emphasis is news reporting and writing (13) and digital/multimedia journalism (14); it is interesting to notice that there is only one photojournalism course and no television or broadcast course; broadcast and/or video usually appear as elective advanced skill course.
  2. The 25 foundation courses are more evenly distributed: introductory journalism course (5), introductory media course (4), ethics (5), law (8), and others (3).

Below are two interactive charts of the basic skill courses and foundation courses.

Related posts:


About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (www.mulinblog.com/mooc), a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
This entry was posted in Digital journalism education. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to What is a digital or multimedia journalism program curriculum?

Leave a Reply