The Big Story: Preparing journalism's next generation

Mary Gallagher

It seems that more and more Western students want a hand in shaping the future of journalism.

The department has more majors in its writing-intensive news/editorial track than in the last decade or so, says Senior Instructor Jack Keith, who advises The Western Front, which was recently named the top non-daily college newspaper in the region by the Society of Professional Journalists. The department also offers specialties in visual journalism and public relations.

Journalism students today still focus on things like solid writing, interviewing, news gathering and crafting great leads all while meeting tight deadlines, Keith says. And, of course, accuracy remains paramount.

But they’re also telling stories in more ways. It’s not just about putting words on paper, says Maria McLeod, associate journalism professor. It’s about finding ways to tell the story on many different platforms, and even on different-sized screens.

“When I started 15 years ago, we taught people to work for a newspaper as a writer or editor,” says Associate Professor John Harris. “Now, we teach skills.”

For example, all Western Front staff also learn to produce photo or video stories, Keith says, because journalists need a wide variety of technical skills.

Today’s journalism graduates are still getting jobs in newspapers, Keith says, though an increasing number are taking their skills to online-only platforms and other nontraditional media fields.

“I don’t see the end of traditional journalism,” he says. “Yes, the medium of how they deliver the news will be different, but we still need journalists. More than ever, we need trusted news sources.”

Mary Gallagher is editor of Window magazine