The Newmark J-School’s groundbreaking degree in Social Journalism, launched in 2015, has been renamed the Master of Arts in Engagement Journalism. The new title more accurately describes the M.A. program, which focuses on interacting with and serving communities. Or, as the tagline for the program says, it’s about “Community, Conversation, Collaboration.”
The essence of engagement journalism, according to the program’s director Dr. Carrie Brown, is “putting a focus on what it is that the public needs—journalism more as a service than a product—putting the audience or the citizen at the center of everything we do.”
Engagement journalism draws heavily on social sciences such as anthropology and ethnography. It emphasizes data analysis. It also embraces some aspects of service journalism, producing stories that both inform and recommend action.
It’s the opposite of the old-fashioned parachute-in journalism model, where a reporter gains “expertise”—or quotes and details for color—from a quick dive into the subject matter. Rather, engagement journalism shares some qualities with what has traditionally been thought of as immersion reporting: gathering information that conveys authority on the basis of extended face-to-face contact and ears attuned to a multitude of voices.
Choosing a community with which to embed for the program’s 16-month duration is a cornerstone of the engagement journalism degree. The word “community” is defined broadly, extending beyond geography to encompass individuals, groups, social movements, and organizations.
While social media is an important element, it had been mistakenly seen as the crux of the program under the old name.
With its sixth cohort due to graduate in December, the program has 67 alumni who have worked in news organizations as varied as Reuters, The Miami Herald, NBC News, CBS Sports, The City, The Intercept, CNN Brasil, ProPublica, The Atlantic, and Sports Illustrated.
(Photo above of Social Journalism Class of 2020)