“Moving the Classroom Into the Newsroom”

In its latest issue, American Journalism Review documents the first few years of an interesting arrangement between the University of Alabama and the Anniston Star, a newspaper covering a community about two hours from UA’s main campus.

 ——–

The basics: A small group of students enrolled in UA’s journalism master’s program spend a year in the Star newsroom, mixing coursework (some of it on the UA Tuscaloosa campus) with professional experience at a community daily while receiving a small stipend (basically on par with a graduate assistantship).  AJR says the Star is “the first newspaper to house a degree-offering master’s program in its newsroom.”

——–

Glorified internship?  In some ways, on first glance, it appears that way.  Slave labor for the newspaper?  Again, yes, I do think the financial advantages for the paper are fairly clear-cut and potentially undercutting to full-time (higher-paid) staff, a concern the AJR article mentions.

——–

While not touched upon by AJR, the arrangement also raises the eternal question: What is more valuable for j-students- coursework or practical experience?  The program description lists a few courses that students need to meander through (when you cut through the siders, it’s basically just research methods, comm theory, community journalism, and j-history) but it is undoubtedly a learn-by-doing approach.

——–

My take: I’m ambivalent.  I don’t worry so much about the slave labor argument.  It stinks for the regular staffers obviously.  (Will all full-timers simply be replaced by the cheaper students  at some point?)  But undergrads and grad students have long been paid less to do more- all part of the move up the ladder and paying dues.  I just wonder if the Star‘s obvious precedence in the class-work collaboration too greatly removes the academic elements.  I mean, is UA really anything more than a beard, a backdrop, in this experiment?  But hey, maybe these types of agreements (among a uni, a news outlet, and a private foundation) will be what saves journalism as we know it. 

—-

Otherwise as a college media advocate, I must state my objection to any arrangement that removes quality j-students from their campuses.  My argument: Produce award-winning, impacting reports that hit home, but do it at UA, not two hours away! :)

Comments are closed.