Recently I signed up for the Carnival of Journalism – purely because I love carnivals and journalism and what could be more fun than combining the two?
Through this blog post, I’m filling my carnie obligation of writing about “The changing role of Universities for the information needs of a community”.
A great example of how a higher education project can become an integral resource for a community is FOMACS. It’s a program run out of the Dublin Institute of Technology that focuses on giving a voice to refugees and immigrants.
It works because it successfully defined its target audience – something essential to becoming a journalistic hub. Any school wanting to make an impact should do the same.
Although on the one hand you can end up with the incredible content and variety of voices you see on FOMACS, on the other, the focus of what your students can work on is narrowed significantly.
From my viewpoint as the co-ordinator of a community college program that narrowed focus could prove problematic. We don’t have the same pool of students entering University from an academic, and often socio-economic, perspective.
Getting students, many of whom work to support themselves and sometimes even their families, to complete stories when the options are unlimited is difficult enough.
In two years we try to pass on as many journalistic skills as we can to young people who come from a high school system that seemingly puts little importance on mastering the English language. In my first year writing class I’ve changed the outline to include basic grammar, which means less time for teaching students how to craft a story, never mind build a community.
It would be great if all of our students could move on after receiving their diploma and get a degree from a University, but many can’t afford to do that. Their experience here could very well be all the journalistic training they get before moving on to the industry – which many do.
Before even graduating last spring, one of our students was hired to report for CTV here in Canada, another just started reporting for a CNN affiliate in the U.S. Whether we’re a journalistic hub or not, our students want jobs after convocation – and what they learn at our school will impact what people hear in their living rooms.
In an interview this week a well-known Canadian journalist told me “The biggest crutch in media is the line ‘we don’t’ have enough resources’”. I’m keeping that in mind as we launch a new initiative.
With donated ad space from our school newspaper we’re working on a campaign to give all students, staff, and faculty a voice on our news broadcast and website.
We’re throwing open our assignment desk and asking our school community to offer up stories, or tell us what they would like covered – because, as FOMACS proves, sometimes it’s not the journalists but the community itself that is the best source of information.
And maybe by building this bridge, we’ll become a hub.