The Medill School of Journalism is getting a makeover.
The school, part of Northwestern University, is being revamped in response to changes in the media industry, according to Dean John Lavine. The new plan, Lavine recently told Inside Medill News, weaves together three critical elements of media: news/stories, audiences and consumers, and channels of communication.
The news element is traditional journalism–finding the news and
reporting it. Audiences and consumers involve marketing and
advertising, and channels of communication refer to how the story is
delivered: in print, online, in a blog format, on TV, radio, etc.
Ideally, the restructuring will boost salaries for Medill graduates, Lavine said.
According to a recent question-and-answer session between Lavine and Inside Medill News:
Q: How will Medill 2020 differentiate the school and its curriculum ?
A: Some schools have great journalism; others have great marketing
where you learn how to reach an audience. If you come to Medill, you
will learn from two expert faculties who are also committed to learning
from each other.
Then, there is the rest of Northwestern, which has become one of the
country’s premiere universities. All of its intellectual excitement and
expertise is open to Medill students.
With the knowledge they gain from the new curriculum, our graduates can
expect to have greater impact on their profession and higher pay when
they enter the workforce. According to a national study conducted each
year, Medill grads already earn more than their counterparts from other
schools, but we’re aiming to significantly increase that gap.
In addition, it won’t be long before employers will want to send their
current employees to us for continuing, updating education. Think what
a commentary that is and what it means for the value of our forthcoming
When asked how journalism and marketing/communications are compatible but different, Lavine said:
The ultimate goals of journalism and integrated marketing
communications are different. The goal of marketing communications is
to persuade — to facilitate a sale by having consumers spend their
time with their stories and messages. The goal of journalism is to
inform. What they share, however, is a fierce commitment to relevance
and the need that stories and messages be meaningful.
Without an audience and an ability to understand and reach the audience, journalism does not exist. You can have all the words in the world, but if nobody reads them,
hears them or sees them, what good are they? It has often been said
that "Journalism’s goal is to tell the truth and create an informed
public." Yet, the press cannot inform without the public being half of
Most important for Medill students who will enter the media and
marketing worlds between now and 2020, those who will get the best jobs
not only will know how to find and tell a high-impact story but also
how to do it in new forms and on new platforms that better engage their
Protecting the Fourth Estate
Northwestern is my alma mater–I went first as an undergraduate, to the School of Speech (now the School of Communication), and later returned for graduate studies at Medill. I
can say with full assurance that I wouldn’t be where I am were it not
for Northwestern and Medill.
So after seeing "School of Journalism" dashed from the prominent
position it has held on Medill’s Web site, I balked.
Could such tinkering with the name compromise the school’s dedication to
the Fourth Estate? Might the value of the degree change, perhaps
It’s still too soon to tell, given the plan is in its infancy. But
after talking with a Medill official and reading the q-and-a session
with Lavine, I am somewhat reassured.
The face of journalism is changing, largely due to technology. I’m all
for journalists becoming more tech-savvy and better able to tell their
stories across all mediums. And if, as Lavine suggests, Medill grads’
salaries climb–all the better. It’s equally critical that we
journalists have a sense of who’s reading/watching/listening to
us–without our consumers, we’re less than a flash in the pan.
Journalists are above all objective, accurate story-tellers of news
and trends. We chase stories, always searching for ways to shine the
light on truth and empower others with knowledge, so they can think and
decide for themselves.
That’s the beauty and duty of the Fourth Estate. May the Medill School of Journalism stay true to it.
- Dean John Lavine Unveils Vision for Medill 2020 (Inside Medill News)
- Medill Changes Three Course Names To Reflect New Curriculum (The Daily Northwestern)
- The Race (Columbia Journalism Review)
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