Tag Archives: education

Transformation at Western’s journalism program

IMG_0175Western University’s graduate journalism program — one of the oldest in Canada — has formally acknowledged plans to re-fashion its one-year master’s program to offer a Master of Media in Journalism & Communication degree. A promotional description of the new curriculum is here.

The decision to shutter the existing program was made by administrators in the university’s Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS) last December, but has been kept low key, as it sought approvals from various offices within the university for a transformed curriculum. Full-time journalism faculty members have been engaged in the process of building the new credential in the hope that it might save jobs and preserve some form of journalism training at the university. Paul Benedetti, a longtime lecturer in the existing program, resigned as its coordinator late last year.

Originally modelled after the journalism program at Columbia University in New York, Western’s offerings began modestly at the undergraduate level in 1946. It became a 12-month master’s program in 1974, annually admitting about 30-40 students each year since then.

Over the past 20 years, the journalism program has had a checkered relationship with the university. Senior administrators attempted to close the Graduate School of Journalism, then led by dean Peter Desbarats, who rallied faculty, staff, alumni and the members of the university’s board of governors to save the school. (That campaign is chronicled here.) Although the effort succeeded, the graduate school soon lost its standing as a separate entity and was merged with the much larger Graduate School of Library and Information Studies in 1996-97, under the auspices of what is now the Faculty of Information and Media Studies.

Desbarats, who had taken the reins as dean of the journalism school from ex-Toronto Telegram executive and founding dean Andrew MacFarlane in 1981, retired in 1997. Manjunath Pendakur, who now teaches communications at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, became FIMS’ first dean. Desbarats died in February. My London Free Press column on his passing his here.

The new graduate program intends to combine elements of journalism, media relations, communications and public relations. Mark A. Rayner, a FIMS lecturer, is taking the lead in coordinating development of the new curriculum.

Full disclosure: For many years, I have taught a summer course on journalism law and ethics as a sessional lecturer in the existing journalism program.

Tips from video producers for student entrepreneuers

My Conestoga College colleague Steve Roberts, coordinator of the school’s broadcast television program, did a wonderful job on Friday, for the benefit of his students, of convening and moderating a panel discussion on independent video production. He graciously allowed students from other programs to sit in — something that my broadcast journalism class said later they very much appreciated.

The seven panellists, all members of the Media Producers Group of Ontario (mpGO), discussed a series of prepared and spontaneous questions for two hours before moving into less formal setting with Roberts’ television students. Among their tips for students hoping to make a go of it as independent video producers:

Interior of The Rip, by Ontario artist Robert Wiens

Passion and persistence are keys to success. Never stop pitching, adapting, networking and learning to use new technologies as they come along.
• Prospective clients will Google you. Be sure your virtual profile is up-to-date and professional in tone. That includes social media as well as websites.
• It’s a growing industry and there’s room for everybody.
• Internships are opportunities to try people out. Prospective employers will be asking themselves not only how good are you, but how well do you fit into their mindset. As one producer put it, “We look for like minds.”
• Hone your writing skills. Writers get paid the most; it’s an invaluable skill that has a profound influence on the shape and look of any production.
• Learn to discern what clients need, versus what clients say they want — that’s one of the biggest communication challenges of independent production.
• Real networking seldom involves parties and martinis. It’s all about who you know and your reputation in the field.
• Don’t turn your nose up at small jobs. A $300 job can lead to a $900 job can lead to a $2,000 job can lead to a $5,000 job can lead to a $10,000 job, etc.
Budgeting is the most difficult part of your work. Do it fastidiously, then track every dollar and hour spent, and charge back for it. If you don’t get paid, you don’t get to play.
• Get used to having to juggle multiple jobs and multiple demands on our time each day. It’s part of the life of an independent producer.
• Attend meetings, but as few as possible. They are usually the most unproductive time of each job.
• The target audience is a big deal. Writing styles must adapt to clients and then be tweaked for client’s different audiences.

Thanks to the producers who participated in the panel: Paul and Paula Campsall of MetaMedia Productions; Rob Currie and Carol Ann Whalen or C to C Productions; Von Darnell of Huckleberry Film Studios; Tom Knowlton of TCK Production; and Peter Shannon of Memory Tree Productions. And, of course, to Steve Roberts for his initiative and hard work in convening the event.