Dubai: US newsrooms have always opened their doors to media students… and, now, even for professors.
This summer a new fellowship programme will have five media studies professors with American universities spend a few weeks at “digitally savvy newsrooms”. During ‘internship’ at the likes of Los Angeles Times, CNBC, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, they will focus on multimedia reporting, data journalism, social media and other methods to engage audiences.
American print newspapers, leading voices in global media, have been severely hit by tech advances and the mushrooming of digital media outlets, which took many income sources away from print. Some of the big names have switched to only online editions, while others are laying off staffers. Surviving players are paying more attention to their online editions and hoping to bring in more income from this platform while keeping as much of the traditional edition intact as possible.
The professors are from African-American colleges and universities, according to a statement by Washington-based International Center for Journalists (ICFC), which is running the programme. Costing nearly $180,000, it is funded by the Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
“For Knight (Foundation), ‘Back in the Newsroom’ is a way to promote newsroom diversity, which is important both for providing people with a full picture of news in their community and engaging people from a variety of backgrounds,” said John Bracken, the Foundation’s director of journalism and media innovation.
On choosing African-American professors for the programme, Bracken said, in an e-mail interview, that “disruption of journalism industry has led to many reporters losing their jobs”.
But the picture is particularly dire for African-American reporters: Their numbers at daily newspapers have dropped from 1,651 in 1998 to 914 in 2013, according to the American Society of News Editors’ annual newsroom census. During the same period, other minorities saw a smaller rate of decline, 26 per cent for Hispanics and less than 7 per cent for Asians.
“This leaves a gap in newsroom diversity and newsroom outputs,” said Bracken. “One way to remedy the problem is to focus on working with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) to better prepare their students for the journalism jobs of today and tomorrow.”
Many journalism graduates lack the needed skills for fast changing newsrooms, ICFJ president Joyce Barnathan said in a statement. “This programme is designed to help professors update their curricula and educate students on technological knowhow.
“Many newsrooms lack ethnic diversity, so they are not always producing stories relevant to their audiences. By linking journalism professors at historically black colleges and universities to major newsrooms, we are creating a pipeline for the most promising students at these schools.
“Ultimately, the win would be the impact this could have on the students that they get a better understanding of what the state of the art is through their professors’ experiences. The effort is also tied to our efforts to give scholarships to HBCU students so they can attend journalism industry conferences.”