Butler’s Eugene S. Pulliam School of Journalism has significantly updated its curriculum this year to reflect today’s 24-hour, interactive news industry.
“You have to be a master of the print, online and broadcast mediums,” says senior electronic journalism major Kyle Inskeep, who says he benefitted from the Converged Journalism course he took last spring. “It taught me that news is no longer broadcast OR print; it’s all multimedia reporting.”
Inskeep makes daily use of course lessons in his work this fall as a media relations intern in Washington, D.C., for U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana.
“I make sure that the stories I pitch to print reporters have some sort of video component to them that can be posted with the story online,” he said. “When pitching to television reporters, I provide them with multiple angles that allow them to create a longer-form piece for their station’s website.”
Gaining multimedia skills should make all her students better storytellers, said Loni McKown, professional practice faculty member in Butler’s College of Communication. In the past three years, McKown has helped bring together previously separate print and broadcast curricula under Butler’s journalism major.
Students now learn to operate cameras and microphones, write scripts and use video-editing software. They use an online content manager to post text, video, graphics and hyperlinks, among other interactive materials. And, of course, they write articles. Use of social media is the newest addition to the curriculum.
For the Converged Journalism course, the journalism school entrusts more than $1,000 in broadcast recording equipment to each student. Students report on a local or national topic of significance using print, broadcast and online techniques. They work in teams to enhance cooperation and communication skills that are vital in today’s 24/7 news cycle.
“They see that a story can have a different impact in how it’s told,” McKown said. “Print offers depth and context. Video offers impact and emotion. Online offers interactivity.”
In JR212 Multimedia Journalism, which McKown also teaches, students who have cars cover news beats in Carmel, a northern suburb of Indianapolis. Those without wheels report news from neighborhoods within walking distance of campus, including Butler-Tarkington and Broad Ripple.
“They talk with elected and appointed officials, business owners, local residents,” McKown said.
In the more advanced JR312 course, McKown’s students operate as public affairs and “watchdog” reporters, covering city-county government and state government beats in Indianapolis.
Kenton Smith in Butler’s Center for Academic Technology worked with McKown to create a WordPress web pages for each class, where stories can be viewed after they’re edited for content and style.
Senior journalism major Anne Carpenter said her converged journalism course experiences pushed her to be inquisitive and to not give up if subjects initially decline to be interviewed.
Carpenter writes three blogs per week in her current internship with the Indiana Assistive Technology Act Project at Easter Seals Crossroads. She also shoots and edits short tech tip videos and posts podcasts.
“It helped to have background knowledge [in technology], so I was a little ahead of the learning curve,” she said.
McKown’s Converged Journalism course will morph next semester into JR412, a new capstone course on in-depth, or “long-form,” journalism. Students will spend a semester developing one big story in the media format of their choice, depending on the professional area they wish to enter.
“Students recognize where their strengths are,” McKown said. Capstone projects will involve in-depth research and extended access to subjects. The resulting projects can be investigative, analytical or even a feature.
In addition to standard news gathering and storytelling skills, journalism students gain proficiency in time management, organization, critical thinking, analytical reasoning and creative problem solving, as well as how to take on large projects, she said.
“The students are ambitious. They want to do way more than class requires or even teaches.”
McKown, who holds a master’s degree from Medill School of Journalism, worked previously as a reporter and editor for newspapers in Indianapolis, and as an investigative producer for a local TV station. She came to Butler as an adjunct in 2009 to teach the first converged journalism course.
“I knew how to speak all the languages: print, broadcast and online,” she said.
She said she was happy to fill a need in order to help prepare Butler’s journalism students for the newsrooms of tomorrow.
“Technology changed so fast that news media nationwide were caught by surprise. Veteran journalists who don’t embrace new technology and new ways of storytelling do not survive.
“That means new opportunities are opening. And, Butler journalism graduates will be prepared for the challenges of a still-evolving news industry.”