June 1, 2002

 






 

 

 

 

 

Journalism schools revamp curricula


After September 11, most schools simply
herded together as many war experts, foreign correspondents and policy wonks they could find to discuss how to report wars, which younger generations of journalists have not dealt with before.

Like many professors around the country, Charles Davis at the Missouri Journalism School came to class in fall 2001 with a syllabus - then promptly shelved it after the attacks.

"I basically threw it out," said Davis, executive director of the school's Freedom of Information Center.

He teaches "Controls of Information," which deals with the now-pressing issue of media access to government and military documents. Where the course used to traverse seemingly esoteric material like filing for freedom of information acts, the class now boasts three weeks of sexy topics like counter-terrorism as well as a unit on national security versus public right to know.

"It's changed my class in a good way. It's made it very current," said Davis. "It used to seem academic."
Besides refocusing existing classes in light of the attacks, many journalism schools are changing curriculums by adding more religion and foreign reporting classes. This fall, Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Illinois will offer a special topics class, "Arab and Islamic Worlds." Similarly, the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism will offer a Middle Eastern reporting class.

But immediately after September 11, most schools simply herded together as many war experts, foreign correspondents and policy wonks they could find to discuss how to report wars, which younger generations of journalists have not dealt with before.

Columbia University in New York, still reeling from the attacks, managed to host three panels with journalists from Ground Zero. The school also opened up rooms for the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, which held workshops for recovering students and professionals.

About a quarter of Medill's weekly lectures since September 11 have dealt with covering the attacks directly or secondarily, said Roger Boye, dean of the school. On Oct. 15, the school staged a panel on "Covering and Surviving Terrorism." It featured Roy Gutman of Newsweek, Carol Marin of 60 Minutes, Steve Franklin, the former Middle East correspondent from the Chicago Tribune and Dr. John Rolland, a University of Chicago psychiatrist.

The last inclusion hints at perhaps the biggest changes at journalism schools, which weren't about classes, but therapy. For the first time in many years, schools are encouraging students to see psychologists and psychiatrists - especially Columbia.

The university called in four trauma counselors who met with individual students and groups shortly after the attacks, according to David Klatell, associate dean for academic affairs. In addition, a psychiatrist who worked with Oklahoma City bombing victims addressed the entire school.

- Shirley Dang



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