Resurrecting OSU’s journalism program

Jada Krening, News Reporter

Editor’s note: The Daily Barometer is part of Orange Media Network.

Students now have the opportunity to join a program aiming to further their communicative and journalistic skills, with Oregon State University’s new minor in applied journalism. 

The minor was added to OSU’s curriculum in fall 2018 as part of the School of Writing, Film and Literature. Jillian St. Jacques, a senior instructor in SWFL and coordinator of the Applied Journalism minor, said the purpose of the minor is to provide a “curricular home” for the students already practicing media professions and journalism on campus, such as University Public Relations and Marketing and the publications and content of Orange Media Network. 

“That’s a lot of students that are already fully engaged, and many of them thinking of either making a living at journalism or other related professions,” St. Jacques said. 

Currently, 20 students from a variety of majors and degrees have declared applied journalism minors, and St. Jacques said that enrollment is increasing each month. 

A key feature of the new program is that it provides students with the opportunity to use journalistic skills in their respected fields, such as science and engineering, demonstrating the “applied” aspect of the minor. 

“The applied part really signifies that what we’re doing is not just training people to write a traditional print article, but training students in the whole range of communicative practices that now constitute our journalistic world,” Peter Betjemann, director of SWLF, said. 

Current curriculum for the minor includes a sequence of core classes in new media storytelling. An additional class, Media Law and Ethics, and an internship are also required. However, most of the requirements are built around electives, consequently allowing students to tailor the minor to their interests. 

“The fact that it’s built heavily around electives was really important in this case, because we’re interested in people from all different degree programs and working on all different platforms,” Betjemann said. “It made a lot of sense to say, if you want to take this degree in a photo journalistic direction, you can do that. If you want to take this degree in a more traditional print based direction, you can do that. New media direction — all that is possible.”

St. Jacques said that the process of creating the new applied journalism program took five years, and included a strong collaboration between SWLF, New Media Communications and Orange Media Network. St. Jacques believes this collaboration, in addition to a more extensive focus on digital media rather than traditional print media, separates OSU’s program from other journalism schools, such as University of Oregon.

According to St. Jacques, another unique aspect of OSU’s program is the firsthand experience students receive in addition to classroom knowledge, including internships, fieldwork and positions within the student-run Orange Media Network.

Moreover, Betjemann said one aspect of OSU’s applied journalism that separates it from other programs in the state is that it is tailored to a different kind of student.

“We are trying to reach a different kind of student. And actually, to solve a different kind of problem: namely, how to associate communication skills with the work students do in their majors,” Betjemann said. “The really big message from me is that this degree orients to the communication of information in a huge array of fields in which students, as majors, might be involved. We aren’t necessarily training future professional journalists, but communicators of all types and with a variety of interests and possible career paths.”

In the past, OSU had a journalism degree. However, the program was cut in 1992 due to budgetary reasons. Steve Clark, who currently serves as the vice president for university relations and marketing at OSU, studied journalism at OSU from 1971 to 1975. According to Clark, the original program had two tracks, including technical journalism and liberal studies. 

Clark said that his OSU journalism degree prepared him for his current role as a university vice president, providing him with the training to ask difficult questions, accurately relay information to others, contextualize facts, to be fair, trustworthy and accountable and to continuously seek self-improvement. Moreover, Clark said he gained insight into the importance of community involvement. 

“Being a journalist helped me understand that people matter — not just the details of what just happened,” Clark said via email. 

Despite the fact that OSU cut its journalism major in 1992, St. Jacques hopes to see the minor grow enough to become a major once again. This growth is dependent on how many students get involved with the program. 

Betjemann also said that he and his staff can “absolutely imagine” an applied journalism major in future years. 

“We have that incredible space and magnificent array of programs over (at OMN), as well as tons of internship opportunities,” Betjemann said. “It’s the most natural, imaginable thing to ally a degree program to that set of resources. I actually think it would be unethical not to do that.”

St. Jacques said the skills students acquire through the minor include time management, the ability to be self directed and show initiative, and the drive to delve deeper into details.

“They have to go: always do the follow up and find the deeper meaning, and try to really get to the truth of things,” St. Jacques said. “That kind of scratching away process is valued in any field.”

Betjemann called the new program a “socially and ethically necessary one,” and said a key reason the applied journalism program is important to the OSU community is because it gives students the skills to relay information about research that is conducted on campus. 

“We have all kinds of fabulous research happening at OSU, in highly specialized domains. That gives us the potential to — not only the potential, but the obligation — to convery and communicate a really extraordinary amount about our world,” Betjemann said.

Additionally, with the rise of social media and other technology, Clark emphasized the continuous importance of professional reports and journalists.

“Strong, accurate and consistent reporting of the Oregon State community — and the broader Corvallis, national and global community — is essential,” Clark said via email. “Information that is accurate, contextual, timely and engaging not only informs us, but inspires us to think, act, get involved, share with others, help advance important causes, laugh, cry and improve.”

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