Online Journalism I and II – Valuable Courses for Communication Majors

~~ A guest blog by Samantha Costa and Danielle Tamburilla, Lambda Pi Eta members and College of Communication students ~~

“In the digital age, journalists have to be willing to experiment, to try new things, and to adapt. And you have to do it because you are passionate about it,” says Online Journalism Professor Mark Berkey-Gerard.

It’s true.  The world in which we live now is far different than it was just a decade ago. The introduction of the Internet and social media sites has allowed us to get news faster and more easily.  With the click of a mouse, we can gain access to a world of information, causing the journalism world to shift uncomfortably under the pressure.

Journalism majors and minors have recently been required to take Online Journalism I, a class that introduces students to the world of practicing journalism online.  However, online journalism courses prove valuable to all students interested in communication.

In Online Journalism I, students set-up and maintain a blog about a chosen beat throughout the semester.  Two posts are required each week along with occasional specialty posts where students apply knowledge recently learned in class to their news gathering and reporting.

For students who are new to working online, this course is a great way to lay the foundation for a possible career.  Many techniques taught in Online Journalism I are slowly but surely becoming requirements for entry-level jobs in communication.  If a student has never handled a digital or video camera, edited audio captured with microphones and digital voice recorders, written simple HTML, or even produced a blog, Professor Berkey-Gerard has it covered.

Skills learned in Online Journalism I include “writing for the web, effective hyper-linking, basic multimedia reporting and production, use of a content management system, basic HTML and CSS, and an intro to SEO, and how social media can be used as a reporting tool,” says Professor Berkey-Gerard. In layman’s terms, Online Journalism I offers students a chance to employ powerful storytelling techniques using text, links, photos, maps, audio and video on their very own blog.  Not only do students learn how write and create multimedia content for the web, they also master how to garner and grow an audience and use social media effectively.  In addition, students come out of Online Journalism I with knowledge of web-related acronyms like SEO (Search Engine Optimization)!

Online Journalism I can be taken by a wide variety of students, because it doesn’t assume knowledge in the area.  According to Professor Berkey-Gerard, “Online Journalism I is an introductory course, so I try to expose students to a range of ideas and approaches.  In the beginning of the semester I try to emphasize effort and experimentation. I don’t expect students to do everything perfectly the first time. I want them to try new things and learn from the experience.”

Online Journalism II builds upon principles from the first course to create a class website comprised of original stories centered on a theme chosen by students at the beginning of the semester. Students branch off into four groups, dealing with different aspects of the site. The tech group works the back-end of the website, tackling more web development skills, as the social media group acts as PR for the website, posting information on Twitter and Facebook. The editorial group establishes the textual introduction and sets the key ideas in place for arranging stories to match the topics chosen. The design group is responsible for picking a theme for the site, how it looks, and what is viewable to visitors.

All in all, students who take both Online Journalism I and II can expect to learn a great deal about using the Internet that can be applied in any communications related situation.  In addition, students come out of these classes with a unique set of skills that could give them a leg up on the competition when searching for a job.

Thoughts from a Graduating Writing Arts Major

~~ A guest post by Michele Conboy, Lambda Pi Eta member and Writing Arts major ~~

I’m a graduating senior at Rowan University, and my major is Writing Arts with a Creative Writing concentration. During my time as a Writing Arts major, I have come across many wonderful courses. Not only were they wonderful, but they were definitely helpful. As a Writing Arts major, it seems like there are various careers to consider after graduation, but there isn’t any absolute guarantee about where you’ll be hired.

In a way, I feel that this is what makes the Writing Arts major so intriguing. Not only are you exercising your writing ability, constantly being challenged in a positive way to keep yourself going, and learning about the craft—but you also have the freedom and flexibility to choose from multiple areas of writing.

I may have a concentration in Creative Writing, but I have also had the opportunity to take technical writing courses as well. I think this has given me a good balance of both the creative and technical sides of writing.

Creative courses that I have taken at Rowan include Writing Children’s Stories, Creative Writing, Writing Poetry, and Film Scenario Writing—which was my personal favorite. Imagine being able to tell an employer that you’ve been able to write creative works of fiction, nonfiction, children’s stories, poetry, and  scripts. Imagine trying to figure out to do with this knowledge. Do you write creatively? Do you send out your latest screenplay?  After I graduate, I’m not sure what I’ll do with all of these choices. I honestly plan on trying to find some steady job—hopefully as an editor—and write on the side, submitting various works of creative material after I’ve completed them.

Technical courses I’ve taken are Writing for the Workplace, Technical Writing, and Writing, Research, and Technology. Through these courses, I’ve learned a little more than I wanted to about how to conduct proper research, how to use the plethora of technological resources out there like blogging and Google Docs; I’ve also learned how to write research proposals, resumes, team contracts,  and so on. It all sounds so professional, especially when compared to the creative writing that I’ve done. It’s sort of difficult to compare the two and question, “Well…since this is possible, and I have learned it…does this mean I’m a jack of all trades, or a master of none?”

I guess in the long run it doesn’t matter whether or not I’m a jack of all trades or a master of none. No matter what, I’ve learned more about writing than imaginable here at Rowan, and with my writing degree I hope to find an editing or teaching career. On the side, I definitely want to write creatively and submit my work, in hopes of some publication. I’ll be scribbling my thoughts after I graduate, anyway—inevitably. At the moment, a silly dream of mine is to publish at least one script during the course of my lifetime. I’d like to thank my Film Scenario Writing professor for the knowledge he’s blessed me with, and Rowan University for the chance to apply for such a rewarding major.

Rowan Radio

~~ A guest post by Christina Maxwell, Lambda Pi Eta member and RTF major ~~

If you’re a student of the College of Communication, it’s a good idea to join a club or activity. From the Rowan Television Network to The Whit, Rowan University’s newspaper, there are plenty of choices that provide great opportunities for communication majors. The award winning campus radio station, WGLS, allows students to reach their potential by gaining hands-on experience right in Bozorth Hall.

WGLS-FM keeps its listeners engaged with a variety of music and educational programs dedicated to those in the Rowan community and South Jersey. Rowan Radio is on the air twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week featuring on air personalities that are Rowan students and alumni as well as community volunteers. Whether you’re a fan of classic rock, rhythm and blues, jazz or show tunes – this radio station caters to all genres of music. If you’re looking for talk radio, WGLS has award winning programs such as “A Community Affair,” that focuses on issues impacting residents of Gloucester County and South Jersey, and “The Rowan Report,” a weekly newscast with the latest national and local headlines. WGLS also has play-by-play and in-depth analysis coverage of all Rowan University athletics and the Wilmington Blue Rocks, a Kansas City Royals Minor League affiliate

You don’t have to be a Radio/TV/Film major to join. Many members of WGLS are majoring in other communication areas. That’s what makes being part of this organization so unique – it gives you an opportunity to interact with different students of the College of Communication, all the while learning on-air techniques and the ins and outs of a radio station operation. It’s not only informative, but it’s an enjoyable experience you won’t forget.

Although there is an introductory meeting at the beginning of every semester, I suggest you stop by the station and introduce yourself to either the station manager or the student manager. When I first transferred to Rowan in January 2010, I was immediately interested in volunteering at the station. I finished my training and was on air by the summer session. So if working at a radio station is your career choice, or if the idea of volunteering at WGLS entices you, absolutely try to make time for it in your busy schedule. After you successfully complete a training session and the written test, you can apply for your own daytime shift the next semester. Once you’ve completed a full semester learning the basics and having a two hour show every week, you can apply for specialty shows, or try your hand in another department. Maybe you’re interested in promotions, sports or even news. It’s up to you!

Rowan University allows students to have the chance to explore so many different opportunities, so don’t let one slip by. Check out Rowan Radio today!