A survey of master’s programs in digital journalism in U.S.

Graduate programs in digital or multimedia journalism – those with the word “digital” or “multimedia” in the program’s name – are usually designed for working professionals and have a curriculum focus on digital skill training. But down the road, we ought to remove the word “digital/multimedia” from a program’s name.

The programs are designed for working professionals

Let’s look at program descriptions of a few programs and see whom these programs are designed for:

It will prepare recent graduates or practicing professionals to excel in the exciting field of digital journalism and in other media- or communication-related fields. – Digital Journalism & Design, Univ. of South Florida

designed for adults who are living full and complicated lives. In addition to students enrolled in the master’s program, workshops are available to journalists and community members, both for- or without graduate credit. – Multimedia Journalism, Univ. of Oregon

provide graduate, professional education for students who are in various stages of their careers in journalism and the broader communications industry and who seek to develop a stronger foundation and preparation in multimedia journalism. – M.S. in Communication (Multimedia Journalism), Virginia Commonwealth Univ.

To put things into perspective – conventional journalism graduate programs usually do not have such an explicit focus on working professionals. A case in point is that University of Florida has a conventional journalism master’s program as well as a multimedia journalism master’s program. Here’s a comparison of the mission/focus statements of the two programs:

Mission statement of Master of Arts in Mass Communication – Journalism:

The Journalism specialization at the master’s level is designed for students interested in all areas of non-broadcast journalism (i.e. newspapers, magazines and online publishing). Those who have an educational and /or professional background in journalism can enhance their understanding of the role of journalism in society, as well as improving reporting and writing skills. However, the program is also well-suited for students with a long-term interest in college-level journalism education, who can pursue the master’s degree as preparation for entry into a doctoral program.

Mission statement of Professional Master of Arts in Mass Communication – Multimedia Journalism:

The program is designed to give students applied experience in journalism and closely related fields. It includes a number of courses with a multimedia focus and is aimed at giving students hands on experience in news, entrepreneurial journalism/broadcasting, news management, and applied research. This is an appropriate program for those wishing to work in industry jobs rather than pursuing a career in academia.

Coursework focuses on skill training

Dedicated digital skill courses are largely absent from a conventional graduate journalism program. For instance, the journalism program at University of Florida consists of the following required courses:

  • Mass Communication Theory
  • Research Methods in Mass Communication
  • Mass Communication and Society
  • Issues and the Press
  • New Media and a Democratic Society
  • International Communication

In comparison, UF’s professional multimedia journalism graduate program has the following required courses:

  • Issues and the Press
  • Reporting Workshop
  • Newsroom Management
  • Journalists’ Tool Kit 1
  • Journalists’ Tool Kit 2
  • News and Numbers
  • The Biz and Entrepreneurial Journalism
  • Master’s Project Seminar
  • Advanced Mass Communication Law
  • Applied Newsroom Experience

See also the required courses for the multimedia journalism graduate program at Virginia Commonwealth University:

  • Research Methods in Mass Communication
  • Online Journalism I
  • Online Journalism II
  • Computer-assisted Reporting
  • Visual Journalism
  • Convergence Law and Ethics
  • Multiplatform Storytelling
  • The Business of Media
  • International Journalism
  • Converged Media Applications

“Digital/multimedia” should be removed from a journalism program’s name – for the future

Digital expertise is no longer an option for journalism students at both undergraduate and graduate levels, and digital training should be an integral part of any journalism program.

That said, digital journalism should be treated no different than other basic journalism training such as writing and video production. If we don’t include the word “print” or “broadcast” in a program’s name, then we don’t need to include “digital” in the program name either.

However, the fact that some programs deliberately chose to use such references in their program titles means that most other programs do not have digital training in the curriculum.

My research on undergraduate degree programs in digital/multimedia journalism shows that more and more schools/programs are embracing digital journalism. I believe the same will happen to higher levels of journalism education as well. So when digital journalism has been an integral part of most graduate programs, then there’s really no need for a program to name itself as such.

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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.
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6 Responses to A survey of master’s programs in digital journalism in U.S.

  1. Pingback: Should you get a master’s in journalism? « Teaching Online Journalism

  2. Pingback: Should you get a master’s in journalism? | androidheadsetmic

  3. Would working journalists be better off studying other programs for a master’s instead of getting a second journalism degree? I think they would be: http://patthorntonfiles.com/blog/2013/01/15/combining-a-journalism-degree-with-a-disparate-degree-instead-of-pursuing-multiple-journalism-degrees/

    Digital skills be learned via books (I learned my CSS from Eric Meyer’s books), Web videos and tutorials. I think there would be value, however, in getting a master’s in another program that can add to those digital and design skills. Conversely, I think more journalism programs should court master’s students who already have technical degrees.

    • Dave says:

      Under this scenario, would I be a good candidate for J-school as a grad student, and then reasonably employable with an engineering degree??? I’m a burnt out engineer who realized after receiving a technical degree that I didn’t like being confined to a cube… and didn’t realize until much later that people actually made a living doing things I liked to do (photography/writing/sharing) vs. what I was good at (math),

  4. Pingback: Should you get a master’s in journalism? | androidheadsetmic

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