In some ways, journalism has not changed in a hundred years. Yet today’s multimedia landscape would be unrecognizable to reporters of yesteryear – or even just a few years ago. To prepare the journalists of tomorrow for this kind of media world, Fort Lewis College’s new Journalism & Multimedia Studies major gets students working with contemporary and ever-evolving platforms, while also grounding them in the ageless principles of the field.
“Students get a broad overview of media history, theory, economics, and how media work,” says Michele Malach, chair and associate professor of English. “And then they get hands-on experience and training in a number of different media.”
Although the Journalism & Multimedia Studies program just finished its first year, its origins are not so recent. The program evolved from the long-running Communications option to the English degree. Malach explains that the department developed the Journalism & Multimedia Studies major to be more targeted and focused than the old option.
“The journalism part came about because, over the last decade, we have been seeing a real increase in students interested in journalism,” she says. “And being a journalist doesn’t just mean writing stories. It means shooting video, taking pictures, building websites, creating all different kinds of informative media.”
What stands out about the Journalism & Multimedia Studies program at FLC, Malach says, is that students can start learning and using multimedia equipment as freshmen. “We offer these production courses right out of the gate,” she says. “They’re spread out over all four years and not just crammed into the last two.”
As part of their course of study, students choose between working with The Independent, FLC’s student news, and working with KDUR, the campus radio station. Both options engage students with live media—and The Independent offers particularly diverse opportunities in response to student demand, says editor-in-chief Alex Semadeni.
“We have three mediums right now,” Semadeni, a junior Journalism & Multimedia Studies major, explains. “We have six print issues throughout the semester, and we're focusing more online to keep up with the changing media landscape and broaden our coverage. We're also expanding our Indy TV department to bring news to students.”
"Being a journalist doesn’t just mean writing stories. It means shooting video, taking pictures, building websites, creating all different kinds of informative media." Associate Professor Michele Malach
While the program teaches students the flexibility to adapt to evolving media, it also focuses heavily on journalistic standards. “Some of the basics don’t change,” Malach says. “How to write a news story. The basics of news gathering and then putting together a story.”
“However,” she adds, “the way that news gets out there has changed. And it’s different from platform to platform. So we keep growing as those change. We stay up with what’s going on.”
To enable that flexibility, Journalism & Multimedia Studies students access the state-of-the-art Ballantine Media Center in the Student Union, which houses both The Independent and KDUR. The space includes a green room, recording studios, conference rooms, an open computer lab, and what Malach calls “the nicest radio station in La Plata County.”
“The school’s been really good about supporting us in keeping up with technology,” she says.
The new major is on track to graduate its first students by Spring 2017. And Malach, for one, is excited to see what FLC’s first Journalism & Multimedia Studies graduates accomplish in the world.
“One of the most rewarding things is hearing from alumni, hearing what the students do with what they learn here,” she says. “We provide them these critical thinking skills and hands-on skills, and then they go out in the world and do incredible things. That’s the best part.”