Reinvigorating Journalism Education

Publication Date June 16, 2011

In 2005, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation formed the Carnegie-Knight Initiative for the Future of Journalism Education, a campaign to transform journalism education. The initiative launched in the wake of an influential McKinsey study, Improving the Education of Tomorrow’s Journalists, which demonstrated a belief amongst news leaders that journalism education ill-prepared students for careers in journalism.

A key component of the Carnegie-Knight initiative has been News21, a program that provides fellowships to journalism students to perform investigative reporting projects overseen by professors and distributed through media outlets. The program strives to demonstrate to both university presidents and news leaders that journalism schools have a major role to play in the future of news.

News21 and the Knight Foundation decided to perform a review of the program‟s impact in early 2011 in order to inform next steps. The review was performed by JM Advisory Group and yielded the following key insights:

  • News industry leaders think journalism education in the United States has improved over the past six years. Although leaders say quality still varies significantly from school to school, 16 of 26 news leaders interviewed (61 percent) think journalism education has improved. Five additional news leaders felt specific schools improved but reserved comment on all of journalism education. Factors driving improvement included better leadership and faculty, and a greater emphasis on programs offering practical experience and digital skills. The schools most frequently mentioned as inspiring new attitudes about journalism education are Carnegie-Knight schools. Also, participating universities report they have transformed their teaching of digital journalism during the five-year life span of News21 and cite the program as a catalyst for this change.

  • News21 has positively impacted students. News21 teaches best-of-craft investigative reporting and presentation skills. Students worked on in-depth journalism projects and produced significant innovation in storytelling, design, interactivity and data presentation. Of 318 News21 graduates, at least 241 are employed full or part time in media or communications, and News21 student hiring rates in 2010 exceeded the national average. News leaders reported hiring more graduates directly out of college to fill entry-level jobs created by the web.

  • News21 is at an important juncture. News21 has established that students can produce investigative journalism that matters. Their transportation-safety project published by The Washington Post, and other media in 2010 proved the point. Now, News21 must find a way to sustain itself and focus its efforts for maximum impact.

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