Journalism dept. revamps curriculum

As increasing numbers of people are relying on the Web to stay updated on the news, weather, sports and entertainment, St. John’s University has realized the possibility that newspapers will some day become an outdated media source. The recent rise of other mass media forms, including blogs and webcasts has led professors to create a new curriculum for the journalism department.

The recent change affects the Newswriting I course. The course is now being team-taught by Dr. Roger Wetherington, associate professor and director of journalism, and Dr. Judith Cramer, associate professor with a specialization in electronic journalism.

According to Wetherington, after the two teamed up, they decided that the course would focus on half newspaper journalism and half electronic. Therefore, for the first half of the semester one section learns print journalism while the other learns radio and television news. Midway through the semester the professors switch classrooms.

Referring to himself as a “dinosaur,” Wetherington realizes his strength lies in newspaper journalism, having worked as an assistant city editor at the Daily News and copy editor at the New York Times. Therefore, instead of Wetherington teaching electronic news writing, an area that he is not familiar with, Cramer steps in and shares her expertise in the field in which she has more than 10 years of experience. Wetherington said the decision came after the two realized that anyone given the job to teach students about a particular subject “must be able to do the job themselves.”

Cramer will be attending a Poynter Institute seminar titled “Convergence for College Educators” in February. She said the event should “provide helpful information about media convergence and teaching across platforms,” which includes print, electronic and the Web. This gives students an advantage because they will not simply spend classtime reading a textbook or hearing about the textbook author’s experience in the communications field-rather, it will be the first-hand encounters of their professors, Cramer and Wetherington, that they learn from.

After its introduction last semester, the new course has evolved: this semester the course is being offered in four sections. Professor Jeff Weiser will teach the broadcast component and professor Claire Serant will teach standard newspaper journalism, or print journalism, in the new sections.

Another advantage of the revamp is that St. John’s students will have greater exposure to different aspects of the journalism field. The professors recommend that students take specialized courses in broadcasting (television and radio) and print (copy editing, communication arts and media graphics) for their journalism electives. That way, these students will be able to handle any professional assignment, whether it is through the Internet or for a local paper.

“I love the [new curriculum] because many of us will be looking for internships soon and we will be able to deliver in more ways than one due to the new skills acquired,” said sophomore Tierra Lee.

Like Cramer and Wetherington, she also realizes the importance of the emerging technology-driven communication era. She is glad that the University realizes that journalism majors “aren’t only looking to become editors of a newspaper.”

The new changes will not affect upper-class journalism majors who have already taken the Newswriting I course.