The Five Pillars of Social Journalism
The Social Journalism program is based around five key skill areas:
Listening Starting with the public to discern goals and needs
Journalism Gathering and presenting the information communities need
Data Measuring impact, reporting, and developing a better understanding of a community
Technology Working with social media and other tools the public uses to interact, curate, crowdsource, and inform
Business and Entrepreneurship Building a sustainable news organization
Metrics and Outcomes Students will learn how to gather and analyze behavioral data and other signals to understand what does and does not succeed with a community. They will learn that metrics can be corrupting — for example, that striving for more unique users and pageviews can lead to crass sensationalism and degraded value, credibility and reputation. They will need to instead carefully select the metrics they will use to judge impact and devise plans to measure effectiveness with their communities.
Community Engagement This is a course in listening to a community: understanding and empathizing with its needs and learning how to help it share its own knowledge. Students will be exposed to ambassadors from a wide array of communities of various definitions – geographic (neighborhoods, towns), demographic (ethnic groups, age groups), interest-based (parenting, sports) or business-related (catering to a specific industry or job description). As the course progresses, students will begin to identify and interact with the communities they plan to serve in the practicum.
Information Gathering and Reporting This course will help students learn how to find and best present the information their communities want to know. Students will identify the best sources in the community, including other media. In coordination with the community engagement course, students will profile communities and meet people in them.
Social Media Tools Students will gain an understanding of the many popular and some obscure tools that communities are already using — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, NextDoor, SeeClickFix, etc. — focusing on their capabilities, how their use affects interactivity and the quality of information, and how they could be used to better inform communities. They will learn how to verify information from social media.
Writing for Social Media This class will build on the previous semester’s journalistic course to offer more advanced skills in reporting, crowdsourcing, interviewing, fact-checking, and the like. Students will learn not only how to find and interact with sources and uncover information some would prefer to keep hidden, but how to work collaboratively with a community to find accurate and trustworthy information. They will then determine the optimal form and means for presentation of the information, whether as a text story or a visual story or an event, on a website or through a social network or alternative media tool. They will learn how to create that content as appropriate for the community, the need, and the medium.
Design and Development Students will delve into what is known as design thinking, a discipline developed at Stanford and Ideo to observe community members’ behavior, listen to their needs, brainstorm solutions, and build or adapt tools. Students will work with developers to better understand what is possible and how to express their technical goals. The goal is not to attain proficiency in coding but to be highly fluent in technology so they can better communicate with technology partners and produce better and more effective products and services for communities.
Ethical and Legal Considerations Students must understand the ethical implications of working with communities. They cannot barge in uninvited with their own presumptions about a community’s needs, nor can they arrive one day and then the next desert a community that has come to depend on them. To succeed, it is vital that they develop a relationship of mutual trust and understanding. In this seminar, students will discuss these considerations and anticipate pitfalls to avoid. They will also receive instruction in legal issues such as libel and copyright as well as freedom of speech and information rights.
Data Skills This course will present the fundamentals of data gathering, analysis, and presentation. Data skills are critical to effective public engagement work — analyzing signals (such as location, demographic, interest, behavior) to discern information about communities; analyzing audience behavioral data to inform design and offerings; gathering and presenting credible information for a community; and assessing outcomes. This course will also address common pitfalls in misinterpreting data.
Business Skills Brief and intensive training in running a community service as a business, with focus on content, revenue, marketing, and technology. This instruction builds off the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s expertise in entrepreneurial journalism as the first school to create a master’s degree program in this area.
Community Practicum Every student will have selected an existing community – whether defined by geography, demography, interest, or business — to serve, using the skills and tools he or she has learned in the prior semesters. As a capstone experience, students will assess the unmet information needs of the community and find ways to help serve those needs. Each student will be assigned a mentor to monitor and improve the quality of students’ work, helping to identify and solve problems and evaluate success. Students will then graduate already doing work in their field. They may then start their own enterprises or seek related jobs in media, technology, or other companies.