Survey shows many PR programs do not offer digital journalism training, and they should

In a survey of 20 largest universities with a public relations major in U.S., I only found three programs that offer digital journalism training to PR majors. This must be changed – PR professionals now need to be well-versed with the same digital skills that are expected of (digital) journalists.

Survey method: Examine curriculum/degree requirements

To find out how PR programs incorporate digital journalism training, I conducted a survey of 20 largest colleges with a public relations major by student enrollment. The data set is based on a list compiled by Educational Portal – validity of the list cannot be verified, I’m using it as a convenience sample. The list is attached at the bottom of this post.

The survey method is to examine the curriculum or degree requirements posted on the website of a department or program, and determine if there is a digital journalism course being designated in the core and/or required courses. A digital journalism course is defined as one that (a) has an explicit course title indicating its digital/multimedia nature, or (b) has a course description that indicates its digital/multimedia nature.

Out of the 20 universities, I was able to locate and examine curriculum/degree requirements for 18 universities – University of Georgia and Kent State University don’t have a posted curriculum/degree requirements for their PR programs.

Survey results: Only three programs offer digital journalism training

Although I was not expecting much digital journalism training by PR programs, the survey results still make me surprised and worried – only three programs offer some form of digital journalism courses:

  • University of Florida: the PR department requires that all majors take “JOU 3346L: Multimedia Reporting,” a one-credit journalism course.
  • University of Southern California: PR program requires all students take “Strategic Public Relations Media and Content II” (4 credits). Course description says this is an “advanced course in writing, digital content and multimedia creation, …”
  • San Jose State University: the PR program in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication requires PR majors take “APSC 63: New Media (3 units).”

I feel the “New Media” course description at San Jose State University better explains the type of digital journalism trainings we should offer PR students:

Hands on instruction in multimedia and emerging new media technologies. Print and web page design, blogging, podcasting, videocasting, RSS, and creation of multimedia presentations by combining still photos, graphics, and video with music and/or audio.

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PR programs(Source: Education Portal)

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 (, 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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