New Media Development Possibilities with International Universities

My report on international journalism education was published last week by the Center for International Media Assistance ( …) .

It is based on interviews with leading international journalism education scholars and on my own international work over many years.

The findings are straightforward: the rapid growth of journalism education around the world has produced real successes at top university journalism programs. But media development organizations can achieve even more if they will begin to help support journalism education through partnerships with the best of these programs.

The report notes the growth of journalism education at universities worldwide. My team attempted the first ever census of university based journalism education under sponsorship of the Knight Foundation for the World Journalism Education Council ( WJEC is an international body with representatives from more than 30 journalism educator organizations in all parts of the globe. We verified almost 2,500 programs and know there are many more we could not verify.

In China alone, some studies show growth from 18 programs in 1982 to more than 600 by 2006. Growth has been significant in India, the Middle East, and Latin America. It is happening in other places, too.

The most encouraging thing is that journalism education in these programs is improving, too. Arguably, a new international standard is emerging that is changing the kind of journalism education young students get in many countires.

Improvements have come with more hands-on journalism experience, better faculty who have traveled more widely, and much better media technology , particularly digital and mobile journalism technologies.

The opportunities for further improvements lie in helping universities teach stronger professional standards such as independence, verification, skepticism, persistence, and ethics.

The result is an emerging model that can further transform journalism education and media systems. It is grounded in better technology, better faculty, critical skills, and entrepreneurship. It can produce new networks of skilled young journalists to be independent entrepreneurs developing alternative, online media systems and improving existing media in countries with weak media systems.

The potential for improving civic discourse through stronger media is enormous. Too often, in the past, international media development organizations have focused primarily on established media organizatations and industries. Those institutions are enfolded within social and political systems that resist change. While training journalists working within those systems is a good idea, it is difficult to produce lasting change.

Young people who want to do journalism but are still learning in top universities can create pressure to improve media systems. Today, they have access to the technologies, the ideas, and the skills training required. Successful international partnerships at universities can help them develop a vision of verification, ethics, independence, and entrepreneurship that can transform existing media systems and develop new digital and mobile journalism networks in many countries with weak media systems.

I am excited about the potential such partnerships hold. Many of my colleagues who work internationally in academic media education also are excited about these possibilities. I hope my colleagues in the media development community will find this prospect exciting, as well, and begin investing in these partnerships.

That investment could be truly transformative.