Journalism’s multimedia future has arrived; HBCU programs find keeping up a challenge

A survey of 240 administrators and faculty from 51 HBCUs with journalism programs reveals a number of challenges as they prepare students for careers in the 21st century news industry.

It’s the first published study to look at how journalism programs at HBCUs are coping with swift changes in the news business as a result of mobile technology and the Internet. The study was conducted by Kim Smith, assistant professor of journalism and mass communication at North Carolina A&T.

The study was published in the June issue of The Electronic Journal of Communication, an online peer-reviewed publication.

Out of the nearly 100 who completed the survey, the most striking result was that nearly all faculty members, chairs and program directors agreed that they must change their journalism education curricula to meet the new demands of 21st century journalism. But they disagreed over who should lead the process. They pointed fingers at each other.

In addition, 60% of respondents said lack of faculty training in multimedia techniques and of financial resources to buy and maintain the equipment needed to teach multimedia are major obstacles to adding multimedia to their journalism programs.

Sixty-seven percent of the respondents said their programs offer at least one multimedia course. Just over 7 out of 10 respondents indicated that their programs plan to add multimedia journalism courses within the next 2-5 years.

The survey also revealed that junior faculty, who had learned multimedia journalism techniques at workshops or learned on their own, and part time faculty, whose full-time jobs were in newsrooms doing multimedia, were leading efforts to train students in multimedia journalism.

Programs that aren’t teaching students how to gather, produce and distribute news and information in the digital age are doing their students a disservice, Smith said.

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