Multimedia journalism major debuts

Heidi Robitaille

Starting this semester, NMU will be offering a new multimedia journalism degree in place of the former electronic journalism major.

“The old electronic journalism major was mostly a major for students looking to report for broadcast media, and it served our students well for over a decade, but it was definitely time to update the major so our students can be prepared for web related jobs as well,” said Dwight Brady, Communications and Performance Studies (CAPS) professor.

Brady, along with Jim McCommons and Cate Terwilliger, professors from the English department, were all instrumental in implementing the degree shift.

“Previously, CAPS offered an electronic journalism major, and the English department had a print journalism minor, which still exists,” Terwilliger said. “Both programs were created in an age in which newspaper and television journalism were discrete, competing forms of newsgathering.

“That time is gone, and both departments realized that we needed to join forces to create a multimedia major that can prepare our students to also produce strong online journalism, whether their employer is a newspaper, a magazine or a television station – or, if they’re freelancing.”

The new multimedia journalism major has a greater concentration in journalism courses and is quite different from the former electronic journalism degree.

“Versatility is important to journalism grads competing for a dwindling number of newsroom jobs,” Terwilliger said. “In this new major, Northern students will learn not just reporting and writing, but how to produce journalism across multiple platforms; that should give them an edge as they look for jobs.”

The new major will be housed in the CAPS department.

“Jim and Cate and I have been talking about creating a major like this for quite some time,” Brady said. “We were able to make it happen because department heads, Ray Ventre in English and Jim Cantrill in CAPS, were so supportive of our ideas.”

Students will be taught how to write, research, film, edit and produce news stories for electronic media.

BC 200, introduction to Multimedia Journalism, is a new course added to the major where basic news reporting techniques for multiple media platforms will be taught, and BC 300, Advanced Multimedia Journalism, will focus on advanced research techniques to uncover information beyond what official sources provide.

EN 217, Newspaper Writing and Reporting is a prerequisite for both courses, and BC 200 is a prerequisite for BC 300.

“Students can still land jobs in traditional media, but this degree will help broaden their skills set,” Brady said. “This is important because many of the media job listings I see these days require experience with content management software and the ability to promote the content once it is in place.

“Students will definitely write and rewrite, but this major is also about researching and preparing content that is visually compelling and interactive.”

The new degree is expected to open more doors for careers in journalism and news publication.

“I think it was a good and necessary change,” said senior CAPS student Hannah Aho. “Electronic journalism focused too much on audio and visual and not enough on current media channels.

“I would take the new program because it focuses on media across the spectrum, not just the audio and visual aspect; technology is constantly evolving, and people primarily gather information via iPhones and social networking sites versus TV and radio.”

Graduates with a multimedia journalism degree can expect to find traditional news media jobs, along with nontraditional positions such as web development and other jobs that have yet to be created.

“Traditional media like print and broadcast are seeing steady declines in their audiences while the number of people turning to the web for news continues to grow,” Brady said. “Understanding this, we felt it was imperative that our curriculum reflect these changes within the industry.”