Changes in technology and social connectivity keep the field of journalism in a constant state of change.
Northeast Community College is adjusting its course offerings to better prepare students going into that field of study. The school is now set to offer a digital journalism and social media management degree in the fall of 2019.
The degree combines components of media arts, which includes courses in digital cinema and audio recording, with elements of mass media, a now inactive degree that was a division of the humanities, arts and social sciences division and provided the coursework for journalism students.
Wade Herley, dean of business and technology at Northeast, said the decision to make the shift came because the college wants to make sure it’s providing opportunities for students with an interest in journalism to become well-prepared for the ever-changing field.
“There are multiple areas to get into in the industry,” Herley said. “We want to put them in a position to be very strong candidates for multiple jobs.”
Herley said the degree expands upon what was offered to journalism students seeking a mass media degree by including elements of the media arts degree like broadcasting, audio recording and digital cinema.
“With content today, (journalists) have to be good writers. ... That’s a key component, but another key component is video content and utilizing social media because it’s a free platform to get the word out,” Herley said.
While mass media was not the most sought-after degree offered by Northeast, Herley said students from the area are interested in becoming journalists and there’s a benefit that comes from teaching those skills at Northeast.
“If we want to build our workforce, we want to build it with people who have their lives here and their pathways here,” he said.
The idea to create the degree came as Northeast faculty watched graduates of the college become highly valued members of the workforce after taking an “organic pathway” through elements of the mass media and media arts degrees.
Herley said Northeast graduate Angela Henery — who now works as an assistant news editor at the Norfolk Daily News and serves as an adjunct journalism instructor at the college — was one of those students.
“She was taking cinema courses, and she’s got some audio background. She’s coming out of school with some highly valuable skills,” Herley said. “It wasn’t hard to figure out how to promote that and how to re-create it was even easier.”
The associate’s degree in digital journalism and social media managements will require a little more than 60 credit hours. The college worked with an advisory committee that included professionals in the field to determine the courses of study. It will include general education, as well as hands-on work.
“We’re really hands-on. It’s one of our strengths — we’ll get them into the nitty gritty of the programs, and then they can go to a four-year (college) or they can go right into the workforce, or — better yet — they can go into the workforce, get experience and then go back to a four-year when they have an employer that’s willing to pay for their next step,” Herley said.
Herley said it was difficult to narrow the requirements down to the 60 hours, which is standard for an associate’s degree, but he believes Northeast is establishing a solid foundation from which budding journalists can build their future.
“I think this really lends that person or that student that’s looking to get into journalism an excellent starting point,” Herley said. “If they go through this digital media and social media management concentration, they’re going to have a really solid base.”