By: Kate Luce
Journalism is making some changes soon at IU South Bend. In the next few years, another course will be added to the journalism concentration which will provide students with the foundations of broadcast journalism.
“With the upcoming changes in the General Education program, the Communication Studies department has made some overarching changes to our Journalism concentration that will begin in Fall 2021. We are adding a Journalism and Multimedia Storytelling course that we hope will expose students to the basics of broadcast journalism. We are also working to assess each course and create a course rotation that helps students build the necessary skills for a career in journalism,” Kari Wilson, head of the Communication Studies department, said.
However, the concentration has seen some changes over the years of being a staple in the Communication Studies department.
Currently, there are anywhere between 15-20 students enrolled in the journalism concentration. According to Wilson, this number is low because of a multitude of reasons. Enrollment has gone down throughout IU South Bend, and with COVID-19, many students took a break until in-person classes are back in full swing. Also, there isn’t a full-time faculty member taking up this Journalism concentration.
Ryan Lohman, a visiting lecturer of Communication Studies, received his undergraduate degree in Communication Studies with a concentration in journalism at IU South Bend. He saw a small number of students pursuing journalism, which is similar to what students are seeing now.
“I don’t remember a lot of students, when I was an undergraduate, in my classes. I don’t think that anyone would be surprised that numbers are a problem, as far as enrollment. In other words, up is always better. We always want more,” Lohman said.
With a small number of students, there could be other factors playing a role in the ongoing situation. Over just a few years, the nation’s opinion of journalism as a whole has become more apparent. While others might shy away from journalism, others might find that producing reliable news to the public is their calling.
“I think with the national feelings both positive and negative towards journalism there are two major outlooks on journalism. Some students have an increased interest as they want to be a part of creating quality informative content. They have the desire to produce reliable news articles to inform the public. Other students may shy away from journalism as they feel negative towards the profession or that perhaps their family and friends wouldn’t approve of their career choice,” Diona Eskew, internship coordinator and visiting lecturer in Communication Studies, said.
Before and during her time as a professor, Eskew worked at a few newspapers in the area. As time goes on, more and more traditional newspapers are shifting their focus to online content. To Eskew, this shift was inevitable. That shift cut many jobs, but now there is still a need for freelance writers. These positions can thrive in the right market.
“Newspapers struggled for a long time with how to embrace digital technologies – some are still struggling. When print media stalled at going online, a lot of jobs were lost. Some were part of the printing process, some were advertising staff and unfortunately, reporters and editors weren’t safe either. However, as more media outlets adapt to the digital landscape jobs for journalists are making a return. It may be slow but it is steady,” Eskew said.
As a professor, however, Eskew has seen a big change with students. According to her, students have been increasingly interested in the ‘gathering the information’ phase of reporting. There has been an increase in students’ access to online databases, public records and political data.
“There are many things that might have prompted students to become more interested in research. Research in journalism has typically been a time-consuming practice. A reporter would have to go to multiple locations to make copies of important information such as court proceedings, municipal meeting minutes, political data and so forth. However, as technology continues to increase research can be done online, documents can be retrieved in minutes, and data is abundant – which in turn changes some of my focus into what to do with all that data, how to use it ethically, and critically analyze information sources,” Eskew said
While journalism is shifting in multiple directions, both in print and digital means. It all begins with the same foundations – telling an unbiased, fact-based, compelling, useful, interesting and timely story.
With a new direction of Journalism concentration, there is a lot of hope in the Communication Studies department.
“Our faculty are very excited about the direction of the journalism concentration. We are making some changes for the future that will help students be great job candidates upon graduation,” Wilson said.
To some, IU South Bend can offer students opportunities that many other schools cannot give.
“One thing we have here that beats [other universities] is you have almost guaranteed access to become a student journalist here. Whereas if you go to the Indiana Daily Student, in Bloomington, that might be a competitive spot you are competing for. You might not get on the staff. Here, from freshman year if you get involved [in publications] from the time your senior year, you almost have guaranteed an upper-level staff position with the paper,” Lohman said.