How do we teach journalism today?


Traditionally, knowing how to write and having a good agenda were the main skills that a journalist who started working in a newsroom had to prove. The context has changed. Active audiences and multiplication of offers characterize the market.

Journalism tries to adapt to the demands of new audiences, increasingly more dispersed. The media wants to capture your attention with the use of digital technologies. That is, for example, the objective of an infographic on how the covid-19 virus spreads in a room.

A television presenter, without moving from the set, is located inside the United States Congress thanks to virtual reality. A radio program allows the audience to listen to it at any time or place. These are just a few examples of how the digital transformation of journalism has brought new tasks and professional profiles to newsrooms.

Fifty years of university tradition

At the beginning of the 1971-1972 academic year, the first Faculties of Information Sciences were created. They would be based at the Complutense University of Madrid and the Autonomous University of Barcelona . In that year, the same condition was officially recognized for the Institute of Journalism of the University of Navarra , created in 1958.

Thus, this 2021-2022 academic year marks the 50th anniversary of the access of communication studies, and among them those of journalism, to the offer of university degrees in Spain.

Today, the 42 public and private communication faculties that offer journalism studies in our country make great efforts to adapt to the new challenges of the digital society. Figures such as SEO (specialist in improving the presence and visibility in internet search engines), community manager (specialist in social networks), content curator (content editor), digital manager (responsible for the image of the company on the internet), and so many other new tasks make their way into the newsrooms of the media.

Technologies and large audiences

The exercise of the journalistic profession requires having skills in the management of digital technologies. Competencies and skills necessary to produce and disseminate content for large audiences.

In this context, the idea of ​​teaching innovation prevails in university education: defining new forms of teaching and preventing teachers from being stuck in old and outdated practices.

The Bologna Declaration of 1999 promoted a radical transformation of European university systems during the first decade of the 21st century. And the fundamental of this change was to give students the leading role in their own learning.

Faced with that image that some of us have experienced in which the teacher came to the classroom, sat at the table and read us his manual, the teacher now has the obligation to update himself and use new ways of teaching, new teaching methodologies.

The management of digital technologies should not be considered an end, but a tool that facilitates compliance with the conditions of proactivity and student participation. And that complements teaching innovation.

New ways of teaching

These new ways of teaching that teachers are applying are very diverse and varied. All of them are aimed at promoting the active commitment of students with their learning. And they have in common the idea of ​​learning by doing . Some examples are:

  1. Project learning. Class work revolves around the development of a journalistic project that is professionally viable. We can talk about a publication, a product or a service. For example, launching a specialized magazine, in which students will have to design, layout and prepare its contents. Or an original journalistic business project that would be viable in today’s society. Even turning the classroom into a large digital newsroom.

    A significant number of initiatives have been carried out in recent decades . Most of the cases take place in the classroom and it is difficult to obtain statistics on these practices. However, there are more and more forums in which these forms of teaching are shared. It is about sharing good experiences with other teachers and that they know how to teach in the classroom how to work in the media.

  2. Service learning. This is one of the most widespread and longest-running teaching methodologies in university teaching of journalism. In the application of this way of teaching, students carry out projects linked to social groups with which they relate in their own daily lives: associations, interest groups and, in general, non-profit entities. They are offered professional solutions that those who could not afford in the communication market. Among others, publicize their activities, interact with the media, design campaigns, etc.

    For example, two professors from the Complutense University of Madrid commissioned their students to design an awareness campaign about Africa. The students worked with NGOs and other groups to produce informative materials. The initiative ended with the organization of an event called the Africa Exists Convention.

And so, somewhere between the cold digital technologies and the heat of social commitment, it is how we are trying to teach journalism today in the university.

At this time, the transformation of the media is evident. Experts speak of a future with many doubts and few certainties. They only agree that the future will be digital. Therefore, the training of future journalists cannot be anchored in the uses and manners of the 20th century.

Author Bios: Maria del Carmen Garcia Galera is Full Professor of Journalism and Manuel Martinez Nicholas is Professor of Communication both at Rey Juan Carlos University