Journalism Professors: When Your Students Want to Cover March Madness, You Excuse Them From Class

In the oddest piece I’ve come across this week, a professional-in-residence (AKA visiting prof.) at Marquette University debates how he should have responded to a pair of his students who asked to be excused from class to cover March Madness-related events in person for reputable outlets.

For some reason, this debate takes 1,000 words and involves multiple sources weighing in.  Seriously?

My answer to the students, in two words: You’re excused.  Two more words: Good luck!  A few more words after that: Send me links to your work, let’s talk soon to catch up on what you missed, and be ready to speak to the class about the experience and any lessons learned once you’re back!

Classes are wonderful avenues through which to explore and practice journalism.  But they are incomparable to a real-world reporting opportunity of A-list stature such as covering March Madness– in respect to strengthening students’ résumés and for adhering to the larger idea that college is about many, varied, and even occasionally once-in-a-lifetime experiences.  Even having to think twice about penalizing or holding my students back from that sort of experience seems apposite to my role as an educator.

So, in answer to the question posed by the visiting prof. in the Poynter piece headline, “What’s a journalism professor to do when his students miss class to cover March Madness?“: You cheer them on, offer help and feedback along the way if asked, and brag about them to anyone who will listen when they’re through.

Happy Friday. :)

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