Saving journalism one Thursday at a time
By Ann Hui
Q: "What are you guys doing today?"
It may have been hyperbolic, but that was mine, and about 12 other master of journalism students' response to what we were doing every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the past four months.
The course was called Journalism Workshop, a mandatory class
for final year graduate students at Ryerson University. Nicknamed “saving journalism,” the course mandate was to help students come up with outside-the-box ways of solving
substantial challenges in the journalism industry.
And creative we were. Under the guidance of our fearless leader, Ryerson professor Joyce Smith, we “brain spa-ed” every Thursday, writing short stories based on classified ads, sketching action figure-themed self-portraits at the AGO, inventing new sports (yoga-ski, anyone?) and, in general, making asses of ourselves.
But (I hope) we all understood there was a greater purpose to the hilarity. There has never been a time when innovation, creative thinking and new ideas have been more important for journalism.
As Joyce put it in the course description:
“In today’s turbulence, it’s tough to know which new thing will ‘stick’. But there’s absolutely no doubt that people who can think creatively and problem solve will always be in vogue. I want you to become one of these journalistic leaders.”
Master of journalism students at Ryerson University. From left to right: Patricia Marcoccia, Kornelia Telesz, Amber Kanwar, Katie Hewitt, Pacinthe Mattar, Jonathan Ore, Michelle de Jesus, Katherine Laidlaw, Amanda Connon-Unda, Matthew Halliday and Azra Rashid.
The ultimate purpose of Journalism Workshop was for students, in groups of four, to brainstorm, develop, and eventually, pitch our (hopefully, creative) prototyped solutions on April 8 to industry folk (Roger Gillespie here at the Star, Matthew Ingram of GigaOm, Anjali Kapoor from the Globe and Mail, and Tim Doyle of Canwest).
Though I’m reluctant to reveal too many details about our pitches from the presentation (some of them, turns out, may actually have legs and so are top secret), they definitely had common themes of what’s lacking in traditional journalism. Namely:
- room for audience engagement.
These last few months have been a wakeup call, at least for me. All along, I (and, I have a sneaking suspicion, other young journalists) have been looking at the big guys in the big offices to implement changes and create things new. After all, we're at the bottom of the ladder. We're happy just to get paid.
But, after talking to a few of those big guys in big offices, turns out they’ve been looking to us to effect change.
So it's up to us.
And, as one of those big guys said to me very recently: "You guys already know how to do this stuff. So do it."
Ann Hui is a Radio Room reporter at the Star. She's also completing her final year of the master of journalism program at Ryerson University. firstname.lastname@example.org