Cicchino: Journalism department at Rowan is flawed

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There are a fresh crop of seniors that will be graduating in about two weeks, so it’s time to reflect on the past few years and get nice and introspective.

Well, that would be the case if some of us had not been taught the same thing for the past couple of years.

As a transfer student, I can’t speak for the students that have been at Rowan since their freshman year, but I can easily say that I learned more about journalism at community college than I did here in Glassboro.

First off, the whole system is flawed.

Somehow, the journalism department has managed to take a semester’s worth of needed information and stretch it to last multiple years.

There really is not a difference between News Writing I and News Writing II. The same can be said for Sports Journalism I and Sports Journalism II. The most important journalism classes offered at Rowan are Media Ethics and Journalism Practices and Principles. Throw in Media Law and the aforementioned News I and Sports I class, and you have the semester’s worth of basic knowledge that you need.

The whole grading process is also messed up.

In the real world, a writer will report on a story, write it up and pass it along to an editor. The editor will edit the story and pass it back to the writer if changes need to be made.

However, in college – or at least at Rowan – things are handled much differently. You don’t have a chance to get that crucial feedback that will improve the story. Once you hand in the paper, you’re getting that thing graded.

While other students in different programs are getting “real-world experience,” it seems like the ones in this major are getting treated like they’re in high school.

To go along with that, the way that classes are taught is not really realistic either.

Only one professor that I’ve had has told the class that they are better suited learning outside of the classroom. He said that that is the best experience the students could get. We would be kept in class long enough to know what the assignment for the week was before being dismissed to work on it.

Meanwhile, other professors will keep students in a copy editing class for the full time while talking about how bringing baked goods into a newsroom will keep the staff happy.

While the upperclassmen toil away in a News Writing II class, learning the same thing they heard in News I, freshmen are taking general education classes.

How is this beneficial to the young students?

I was a member of The Whit staff this year. They needed people to write. How is a freshman expected to be able to come in and contribute to something like The Whit if they have to wait to take journalism classes?

It just seems backwards. Professors tell students to get involved in the school newspaper, but for the most part, these students do not know how to write.

To prove that it isn’t just the early goings of the major that are flawed, let’s discuss Senior Seminar.

The class is a requirement for seniors. This semester is online, which is a stupid idea anyway. Senior Seminar is a discussion class. How can students have an actual discussion through a computer screen?

However, that’s not the point.

The real problem is that the work done in the class is nonsense.

The most recent assignment called for an 1,800 word paper about a desired work place. That followed a 1,500 word profile about a journalist. Instead of writing these useless papers, why not make the class revolve around one big investigative piece? Give the student the semester to find a scoop and make it into a comprehensive story. That would be more valuable than telling the professor who Matt Miller of Bleacher Report is.

The field of journalism is one that is changing. The written side of it is going away and a modern era is being ushered in. It’s time for the way that classes are taught in the journalism department to follow suit.

For questions/comments about this story, email editor@thewhitonline.com or tweet @thewhitonline.

2 COMMENTS

  1. To the author:

    Seems to me like instead of writing an opinion piece in the year’s last issue of The Whit, these are concerns you should have been bringing up all year to your professors, or your fellow students. Or to the head of the journalism department, or your journalism advisers. Or to the dean, or the college’s advisory board, of which I’m a member. Maybe you have but I didn’t read that here and any good journalist would do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of a problem.

    Simply put, I’m very sorry you feel this way. My education at Rowan was stellar and I have managed to get excellent journalism jobs, eventually working my way up to an editor position at the top news organization in the world. Of course, nothing beats real world experience but your education is carefully thought out to give you as much knowledge as possible to apply what you learn to the real world once you leave school.

    I’m also sorry you think that you’ve learned everything you need to know in just a semester. I can say with 100 percent confidence that you have barely scratched the surface. Even 11 years into my career, I learn more each day, as you will.

    Have you done internships? Have you freelanced? Both of these things you are able to do while you are still in school. I hope you have taken advantage of that to get that real world experience.

    However, there are some things that are concerning. Yes, you should be doing investigative pieces and I know for a fact that some classes do that. Did you just not take those classes? Rowan journalism should definitely be offering that to students. And yes, feedback is crucial. Have you asked your professors for it? I can’t see how professors wouldn’t give you feedback if you asked, even if that isn’t part of their grading process.

    You are definitely entitled to your opinion and if you think you received a poor education, again, I’m sorry to hear that. I hope that you take what you did learn and strive to learn everything you can about journalism, especially once you enter the workforce. Good luck.

  2. You know what gets me most about this? This hurts people, needlessly. And it hurts people who want nothing more to than to be your champion.

    The Rowan journalism program does have flaws, as does every J-school in the country and every journalistic institution in the world. But at the same time, you’re in an editing position at the student newspaper that allows you to write opinion pieces like this. You think you got there on your own? You didn’t. In between your rants, you even acknowledge that you did get things out of your time in journalism classes there.

    I’m a working journalist today in no small part because of the people at Rowan your screed ultimately targets — Kathryn, Claudia, Michelle, Mark, Carl, Ed, George, Deb, Bob and many others. Maybe they didn’t give me every thing I wanted, but they all gave me something. Today, I’m forever grateful for that.

    But hey, I felt this way too when I was a senior at Rowan. It’s sort of the trouble with an unpredictable profession where work in the field is critical. But still, I felt the instruction was lacking in certain areas. So I came back and advocated for what was missing so others could benefit. I successfully pitched a data journalism class that is now part of the curriculum (you should have taken it!). I continue to meet with faculty there because I’m grateful for what I did get out of Rowan and believe it’s part of my duty to pay that forward.

    I hope you get “nice and introspective” about this, because I don’t see what this accomplishes or even begins to solve. Your complaints, at their core, likely have validity to them. There are always things that can and should be improved at any institution. I just wish you’d done something about it when you were in a position to do so. Instead you gave everyone the finger on your way out the door, publishing something in the final issue of the semester that leaves no opportunity for a response. That’s cowardly.

    I wish you well man. I hope you go on to good things. But I also hope you learn something from this before you go get your degree.

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