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New journalism master’s program highlighted with open house, conference

October 17, 2008 By Dennis Chaptman

A retooled professional-track master’s program in journalism that sharpens story-telling skills across a number of media platforms and provides tailored in-depth training in specialty reporting areas will be marked with an open house and mini-conference on Friday, Nov. 7.

The event — which is free and open to prospective students and the public — will be held at the Nafziger Conference Room on the fifth floor of Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave., from 8:15 a.m. until 1 p.m. The mini-conference will focus on journalism and democracy and will feature a keynote speech by John Nichols, associate editor of The Capital Times.

The event is also expected to feature politicians and other journalists from outlets including the Wisconsin State Journal, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and La-Comunidad, as well as experts in political communication from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The panels will deliberate about the state of the media in Wisconsin on the heels of the election.

The first in what is hoped to be an annual event, the day’s events will introduce the community to the newly restructured degree program.

“Our new professional-track master’s program provides a mix of skills classes, broad discussion about the challenges and practice of journalism and the individualized instruction in key specialty areas that journalists need to excel in the 21st century,” say James Baughman, director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The school awarded its first master’s degree in 1916, and today it graduates about 15 students a year in both professional and research thesis tracks. Graduates have gone on to assume careers in a wide range of communications fields and in news organizations such as The New York Times, CNN, the Associated Press and

The new program requires students to choose, under the guidance of an advisor, a specialty area of study, such as science, health and technology reporting, political and civic journalism, international reporting, or another area of their own choice.

Journalism professors Susan Robinson and Deb Blum led the effort to formulate the new program during the past two years. Robinson says that it will require all students to take courses in long- and short-form journalism and a new class called Integrated Media Storytelling.

The class delves into the concepts and practice of storytelling across a number of media platforms. It will deal with Web-based journalism, civic journalism, and examine audience use of various media and the effectiveness of different avenues for telling stories.

Robinson says the struggles of the news industry in today’s economy — and the changes imposed technology and the changing expectations of consumers — make the professional-track master’s program more useful than ever.

“While it’s true that newspapers are facing major challenges, we still need skilled, responsible journalism. It’s one of the foundations of democracy,” she says. “The question is: How do we do journalism in this environment? Our program helps provide the tools to answer that question.”

The program, Robinson says, is well suited for people with undergraduate degrees in non-journalism areas seeking journalistic skills in an area of interest or a specialty field, as well as journalists looking to enhance and expand their skills.

As part of the program, students develop a portfolio of work including at least five professional-grade clips or projects from classes, independent projects and freelance work for presentation on the job market.

For more information about the program, contact Robinson at (608) 263-3397 or