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Schieffer School program changes to debut in the fall

Editor’s note: This article was revised for accuracy at 10:25 p.m. March 11.

The Schieffer School of Journalism will implement a new curriculum in the fall to keep up with changes in media because of new technology, a university official said.

John Lumpkin, director of the Schieffer School, said the university will offer only one bachelor of arts journalism major for the incoming freshman class in the fall, and students can choose to add certificates to the major. Certificates are areas students can specialize in, although adding a certificate is not required. The certificates include news-editorial, broadcast and convergence disciplines, he said, adding that students can receive all three certificates if they meet the class requirements.

Suzanne Huffman, news division chair for the journalism school, said she led the effort to revise the news division curriculum. She worked with news division faculty, professional journalists and professors from other universities over several months in order to revise the news division curriculum. She said the curriculum must be approved by all of the relevant university committees, adding that she thinks all of the relevant committees will approve the curriculum this spring. Students who entered the university before fall 2010 will have the option to change to the new journalism degree or continue on their current path, she said.

“(The new degree plan) recognizes the way news consumers now receive and interact with news products,” Huffman said. “And it recognizes the way new technologies have increased the ways journalists gather and distribute news to increasingly time-pressed and mobile consumers.”

Lumpkin said the school is changing the curriculum to prepare students to be flexible and engaged in many different platforms of media distribution. He said the new curriculum will teach students the different philosophies on what is the most compelling way to distribute a news story.

“It is all about preparation,” Lumpkin said. “We want our students to have a level of proficiency in as many media formats at they can.”

Students should consult with their advisers if they want to switch to the new degree, Lumpkin said, to make sure they are not being disadvantaged because the classes required are different than those in their current degree plan.

According to a document outlining the requirements for the new journalism degree, it would require 124 hours with 38 hours in journalism classes. The journalism degree consists of a journalism introductory class, basic writing courses, reporting, sports reporting, feature writing, computer assisted information gathering, law and ethics and five journalism electives. Each certificate is nine specific hours and six journalism electives, which would count toward the 15 journalism electives included in the 38 hours of journalism classes required for the degree.

Aaron Chimbel, assistant professor of professional practice and adviser for TCU News Now, wrote in an e-mail that a new course has been added to the curriculum in the journalism school called Multiplatform Capstone. During the class students will demonstrate the cumulative knowledge from their classes in the journalism school, Chimbel wrote. According to a prototype syllabus of the class, students will have to show their understanding of writing, reporting, visual storytelling, research and investigative techniques. Chimbel wrote that the class will be offered when students are seniors; therefore, it will not be offered in the fall.

Brooke Crum, a sophomore news-editorial journalism major, said she thinks the new curriculum is not a good idea because potential employers might not understand what it means to have a certificate.

“A certificate, yes, could qualify you with those specializations,” she said. “(But) I think that would be confusing to someone who’s hiring you.”

Crum said she plans to keep her current major regardless of the changes in curriculum because she said she thinks the major with the certificates are not as specialized as the current degree plans.

Clint Foster, a freshman broadcast journalism major, said he would likely stay with his current major, but planned to talk to his adviser about the new major to see if there were benefits to switching.

“The media is rapidly changing and converging,” Foster said. “It is important that we stay up on exactly what’s going on.”

Lumpkin said regardless of the changes in curriculum, the journalism school will still keep its foundation in ethics, fairness and factual reporting.

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