MU School of Journalism replaces courses, changes curriculum

Key changes include fewer emphasis areas, elimination of interest areas and changes to specific courses.

Change is coming to the MU School of Journalism in the fall of 2019.

Faculty at the school approved changes to the pre-interest area curriculum. Key changes include the reduction of emphasis areas from six to two, the elimination of the 36 interest areas and changes to specific courses. These changes will affect entering freshmen in 2019.

Under the new plan, students will still declare a journalism major and work toward a bachelor of journalism degree. However, rather than taking four credit hours of journalism during freshman year and nine sophomore year, students will take nine credit hours in year one and eight in year two.

The increase in credit hours is due to the creation of new courses. While some courses, including J1100 Principles of American Journalism, are merely being updated and renamed, others are being removed. Courses being removed include J1010 Career Explorations in Journalism, J2100 News Writing and J2150 Fundamentals of Multimedia Journalism.

Curriculum committee chair Stacey Woelfel said that three new courses, Fundamentals of Journalism Practice I and II and Techniques of Visual Journalism, will replace J2100 and J2150 and can be taken during freshman year.

“It gets people to hit the ground running and get those courses where, just like in J2100 and J2150, they’re creating content,” Woelfel said. “So it won’t be, as we have it now, just sitting there and listening about it.”

During sophomore year, all students will still take J2000 Cross-Cultural Journalism and a new 2000-level strategic communication course entitled Audiences and Persuasion. Curriculum committee member and journalism school adviser Pete Ozias said the course is not just important for students interested in strategic communication, but journalism as well.

Then, depending on whether a student chooses strategic communications or journalism as their emphasis area, they will take either a revised version of J4200 Principles of Strategic Communication or a new course, Newsroom Content Creation.

“The newsroom content creation course is probably the biggest idea of all of this,” Woelfel said. “It’s a newsroom course where all students, regardless of what their career interest might be, will work together on multi-platform reporting projects.”

Ozias described the course as one that would utilize a different style of newsroom, like a “hub.” In this newsroom, students would not be divided based on their platform or medium. Ozias said this would diversify students’ experiences and reflect real-world newsrooms more closely.

According to Woelfel, the committee, made up of current faculty and ex officio members, began discussing changes in 2016. The committee decided to update the curriculum to better meet the needs of students and reflect changes the industry has seen over the past several decades.

“We could’ve thrown the whole curriculum out and started over,” Woelfel said. “We didn’t think we should, because we think a lot of what we’re teaching is the right thing to teach. At the same time, in my opinion, it’s not as modern as it needs to be.”

In an effort to retain more students within the journalism school, committee members decided to start students in journalism courses earlier.

“We have students coming in and they’re all excited and ready to go,” Ozias said. “They can’t start doing hands-on work until later. It puts them in a situation where they have to stop, because a lot of students have been writing for their high school paper or doing stuff on their own.”

Woelfel said the committee also wanted to “increase efficiencies” by reducing duplication of concepts in different courses, as well as “cross-pollinating” disciplines and platforms.

Much of that cross-pollination would occur in upper-level courses, usually taken during the junior and senior years when students are in their strategic communication or journalism emphasis areas.

Changes to these upper-level courses have been proposed in the committee and await faculty approval before the designing and structuring of courses can begin.

Chief among the proposed changes is the elimination of the 36 interest areas that lie within the six emphasis areas, which students currently must apply to after finishing pre-interest area courses.

Instead, students would take six credit hours, likely spread over two courses, in what the curriculum committee currently calls “career portals.” Woelfel said that while under the current curriculum, students may be in magazine or print and digital news emphasis areas, those students could be grouped together in the proposed new system.

In addition to completing these six credit hours, students would have 15 credit hours available for electives.

“The elective pool would be thrown wide open,” Woelfel said. “If you’re taking courses in magazine but you’re also interested in podcasting, you could take a course in that.”

This open pool of electives is an effort to allow students to explore different interests while still specializing in a particular type of journalism or strategic communication.

“You could also get multiple [career portals], which is new,” Ozias said. “If I were radio-TV, I could also take strategic communication courses, as long as I was meeting the prerequisites for those courses. It’s not like you have to be a major in X to take to be able to take their classes.”

Capstone courses, which students take the semester before graduation, could also see changes in the coming years. Ozias said the goal would be to add new capstones in which students could participate in a seminar course or work on a research paper as opposed to work in a Missouri Method newsroom.

The changes to pre-interest area courses have been approved by faculty and will take effect for freshmen in 2019. Changes to junior and senior years will be voted on by faculty in the coming year and are expected to take effect in 2021 and 2022, respectively, Ozias said.

“We just want to widen our gap over competitive schools out there,” Woelfel said. “We want to make Mizzou an even better option for incoming students.”

Edited by Morgan Smith |

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