Journalism education is instruction for work in the news departments of media organizations, both print and electronic. The instruction can take place before journalists enter the workforce, during early employment, and at later career stages. It can involve practical training in the skills of the journalist and broader education about the context of that work. The training can cover reporting (information gathering and evaluation), writing (language use and storytelling techniques, including photography and graphics), and editing (including story presentation and integration into the news format) skills. Education about the context of journalism can include topics such as the social setting and impact of news, journalism history and law, and news ethics.
Education for entry-level journalism has followed three main traditions, which reflect not only the historical evolution of journalism education, but also the control from, and involvement of, media businesses themselves. The earliest journalists learned their skills on the job, usually beside a journeyman. That tradition has persisted until now, most notably in Great Britain. A tradition usually associated with the US centers on university instruction before entering the workforce. A tradition associated with continental Europe houses journalism instruction in training institutions other than the university and separate from the industry. Variants of these traditions exist in nearly every country even today.
Most research on journalism education is descriptive, such as the UNESCO project that mapped the field (Gaunt 1992). Variants in journalism education tend to reflect the history, traditions, political structure, and economics of each national press system.
Proponents view journalism education as important because it gives journalists skills and values that affect what they do, e.g., expertise to be better gatherers and interpreters of information, writing and video-shooting skills to fashion better reports, which audiences will more likely attend to and understand. The outcome should be a betterinformed citizenry. Although the evidence for that assumption is largely anecdotal, news media companies support it in their habits. Larger organizations employ journalists specialized to cover medicine, transportation, legal affairs, defense, and the like, because they believe that specialized knowledge, acquired through training or on the job, makes for better reporters and editors, to the benefit of citizens.
The employing media organizations believe that journalism training supplies more productive members of the workforce. A journalist who knows which sources to approach, how to conduct an interview, how to write in news style, and how to work under deadlines will likely produce the news product quickly and cost-effectively. A journalist trained in libel and other legal constraints on news will likely help the employing organization avoid legal problems. From education, the employer gets a type of certification of a journalist’s basic skills.
Journalism education frequently has been a means of political control. In Eastern European countries under communism, for example, journalists generally could not hold the top news leadership positions unless one of a few university journalism programs had trained them. The training guaranteed that journalists followed the techniques and values of the state information system. The values of the host society always influence journalism, and journalism education is necessarily one means to exert social control over journalism practice.
Journalism Education In The Us
University-based journalism education began in the US in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, when departments of English began offering courses in basic writing and reporting skills for print journalism. In 1908, the University of Missouri established the first School of Journalism, a distinct academic unit designed to educate students for careers. Enough journalism programs were in operation four years later to see the founding of the American Association of Teachers in Journalism, which developed into today’s Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, a largely USbased organization (Emery & McKerns 1987).
Journalism education fitted well into the US university, which, more than its European contemporaries, included instruction in entry-level skills for persons preparing to join the labor force. American universities expected students to participate in courses across multiple fields – a type of liberal arts education that most European countries included in pre-university curricula – and American students could also study to be nurses, teachers, engineers, and even agricultural workers, as well as journalists.
Despite this integration of journalism education into the core of American universities, a division has always existed between programs fully integrated into, and those drawing on but separate from, that liberal arts core (Reese 1999). Proponents of the former position, called the Wisconsin model after the university where it originated, argue that journalism programs should be housed in the core of the university. Proponents of the latter model, associated with the University of Missouri, argue that journalism education should stand outside that core. Most US journalism programs follow the Wisconsin model, a minority follows the Missouri model, and some follow another variant.
Another persistent division in US journalism education is between instruction for entering newspapers and magazines, and instruction for entering radio and television. When US radio broadcasters began to need trained workers, they turned to universities with programs in oral communication. These units, mainly departments called Speech Communication, educated students in the techniques of argumentation and debate as well as voice and articulation. The close alliance of the newspaper industry with existing journalism programs and the competition between newspaper and radio made a separate source for radio talent an advantage. Television followed this same path until the 1960s, when news operations began to expand and needed workers trained in journalism. Existing print journalism programs then began to provide journalism instruction for broadcasters.
In the 1970s, journalism programs at US universities began to expand their curricular offerings to include instruction for careers in public relations and advertising. Advertising had been a part of the University of Missouri journalism program from the beginning, and many students likely studied journalism to enter public relations either immediately or later as their careers unfolded. Today, advertising and public-relations instruction is common in US journalism programs.
The division between speech communication and journalism still exists at many US universities, although others have brought these programs together in an umbrella organization, a college or department of communication. About 1,200 US universities offer some form of instruction in communication, and roughly 450 of them include journalism in their curriculum.
Efforts to create standards for journalism education in the US began as early as 1917 and culminated in 1945 with the founding of the American Council on Education for Journalism, today called the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC; Emery & McKerns 1987). The accreditation standards, a by-product of discussions between journalism educators and the media industries that employ their graduates, cover curriculum, faculty qualifications, facilities, governance, and the like. In 2006, ACEJMC accredited 109 programs in the US and one in Chile.
Journalism Education In Other Areas
In western Europe, few universities until recently offered curricula to train students in the practice of journalism. Usually instruction came from other institutions of higher education focused on specialized trades and occupations. The universities instead offered courses to examine critically how journalism operates, often from the point of view of political science or sociology. The University of Leipzig taught such courses as early as 1762.
Despite similarities within Europe, countries have pursued different approaches to journalism education (Gaunt 1992). In France, a body representing the government, the journalism union, and the media industries accredits programs. Consistent with the French tradition in journalism itself, instruction focuses on a literary tradition. In the Netherlands, specialized institutions have training journalists as their sole mission. Many German media organizations run training internally. Graduates may seek employment outside the organization, but the organization can observe their work over time and offer contracts to the most promising students. Large German media organizations value specialized knowledge and hire journalists with doctoral degrees in their areas of specialization. The new democracies of eastern Europe have tended to follow the American models for journalism education, although several countries house journalism within political-science colleges.
Former British colonies in Asia and Africa followed the tradition of on-the-job training initially, but have moved more recently toward university-based education. Other countries have followed the traditions of their colonial masters as well. In the Philippines, for example, universities offer journalism curricula very similar to those of the US.
Beijing University in 1918 offered the first journalism courses in China. Other universities, many headed by American missionaries, began similar instruction. With the creation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, journalism education came under state control. As China became more open to the west at the turn of the twentieth century, journalism instruction also came less under central control and reflected the American trends more.
Journalism education in Latin America is an amalgam of US and European influences. The programs emerged in the 1950s and 1960s and followed American university-based models, but often included a political component. Practical skills training is less prominent than theoretical analysis of the role of journalism in society, reflecting the countries’ strong literary and humanistic traditions.
Post-employment training for working journalists has become common in many countries. In Denmark, for example, union contracts guarantee training opportunities for journalists. In the US, approximately 130 such programs operate. As part of media assistance, donor countries around the world commonly include training for working journalists. The employer, an educational institution, or an independent organization may offer mid-career training.
The programs, running from a few hours to several months of intensive study, may take place at work or at another institution. Specialized journalism training organizations offer some programs, and universities offer others, as extensions of existing journalism curricula. Programs may focus on specific skills, such as software use or government databases, or on general knowledge, such as health research methods. Web resources increasingly supplement the programs, and some training takes place exclusively online.
Working journalists may know about and regard the programs highly, but little systematic information exists about the effectiveness of the training. Some research suggests that mid-career training can give journalists new ideas and sources for writing and producing stories (Becker et al. 2006). Promoters say that participants have more motivation and advance in their careers. Sharing experiences may improve individual performance and journalism in general. Research does suggest that long programs give journalists a respite, a time to gain new enthusiasm for work and for subsequent stages of their careers.
The competencies of journalists, acquired through education before and after employment, may affect the news construction process, but research has not yet documented to what extent. More important, research has not examined how variants in journalism education affect news work. Do university and industry-based programs produce reporters with different value systems? Do journalists educated in the humanities produce a different version of news than those educated in the social-science tradition? Research needs to pursue these questions to understand journalism education.
- Becker, L. B., Fruit, J. W., & Caudill, S. L. (1987). The training and hiring of journalists. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
- Becker, L. B., Vlad, T., Swennes, A., Parham, B., Teffeau, L., & Apperson, M. (2006). The impact of midcareer training on journalistic work. Paper presented to the Professional Education Section, International Association for Media and Communication Research, Cairo, Egypt.
- Emery, E., & McKerns, J. P. (1987). AEJMC: 75 years in the making. Journalism Monographs 104. Columbia, SC: AEJMC.
- Fröhlich, R., & Holtz-Bacha, C. (eds.) (2003). Journalism education in Europe and North America. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
- Gaunt, P. (1992). Making the newsmakers: International handbook on journalism training. Westport, CT: Greenwood.
- Reese, S. D. (1999). The progressive potential of journalism education. Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 4(4), 70 – 94.