New Mexico State, Auburn Step Up Convergence Journalism Digs and Curriculum

Two universities are taking strides toward developing more digital era-friendly spaces and learning opportunities for their journalism students.

Just last week, New Mexico State University (NMSU) opened a $100,000 Digital Journalism Center with a soundproof audio booth, a studio students can use to produce podcasts (with a green screen!) and a Mac Lab to better accommodate the needs of up-and-coming multimedia student journalists.

Dr. Hwiman Chung, journalism and mass communication department head told KRWG that the program hopes to attract campus passersby to the study (discipline?) of journalism with its open window design, so future and current students might be drawn into multimedia production from being able to watch NMSU news products being put together.

Last week, too, Auburn University announced a partnership with television news broadcaster Raycom Media, which will provide more than $350,000 toward the equipment and technology costs of a new studio for Auburn’s convergence journalism students. Raycom will operate one of its own local news bureaus out of the facility, giving students the chance to observe Raycom journalists use video, social media and editing software to create digital news packages but also to receive feedback from industry professionals, in addition to their academic instructors.

“News consumption habits are rapidly changing, and that calls for new ways to prepare tomorrow’s multimedia professionals,” Auburn University President Jay Gogue said in a press release. “We’re excited about where this innovative partnership will position Auburn in the communication and journalism profession.”

Citing the much-buzzed about “teaching hospital” method as one reason for the program’s pivot, Auburn’s union with Raycom signals a shift, however small, in overall J-school education philosophy.

The opening of both facilities seems to provide an answer (at least in part) to a question that media professionals and journalism instructors have been especially asking over the last five or so years — is it enough for young, aspiring reporters to just know how to write ethically, accurately and on deadline? The answer is a resounding “no”, and J-schools all over the country who aren’t taking steps toward modernizing their technologies and completely remodeling their curriculum to favor convergence journalism are already behind.

As a freshman communication major at a large flagship university in Texas, I was caught in the crossfires of massive budget cuts that left my school’s liberal arts program without a journalism major altogether. Having already committed to the school for other personal reasons, I took what I could get — a minor in journalism studies — and hoped for the best. What I got was pretty great — tons of fantastic connections that would lead me to valuable publishing internships (google the “Aggie network,” it’s a thing, not to be confused with the NMSU Aggies) and solid instruction from old-fashioned career journalists who recalled the whiskey and cigarette-breathed reporters of the past — but had the university truly valued raising up prepared, forward-thinking young journalists, I would have been better off. The learning curve was high for me after graduating, which is why I think it’s so exciting that NMSU and Auburn are doing what they’re doing.

Your turn: What was your undergrad journalism education like? Do you think other universities should follow behind NMSU and Auburn? And does the “teaching hospital” translate well into the post-grad newsroom?

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