We let the story and the ideas drive our first-rate technological curriculum. Students spend the length of the 18-month program working on a single, substantive project. We custom tailor a selection of courses—from data visualization to game design to web development and beyond—around the needs of that particular project. In the final semester students work closely with national media outlets in anticipation of publishing their respective stories.
There’s much talk of unicorns in the modern day newsroom. The term is used to describe that most desired, yet elusive of beasts: A reporter who has excellent writing and storytelling skills and is digitally fluent from web design, data mining and visualization to knowing how to shoot and edit video. And yet the industry is still waiting for a herd of such magical creatures to arrive.
Media Innovation has been designed with a single goal in mind: Retrain journalists to fulfill this need.
Our three-semester, 33-credit hour program consists of four core components: The story, the studio, the concentration, and our partners.
At the core of the program is an in-depth project of significance reported and produced over the course of the three-semester degree. Projects can range from interactive long-form projects to web documentaries.
Current topics include:
- an investigation into programs run as alternatives to incarceration for women with young children;
- male victims of sexual abuse;
- homeless transgender teenagers;
- a year in the life of an IVF clinic;
- the city of Lawrence’s uphill climb towards rejuvenation.
This three-semester sequence is the thumping heart of the program. First and foremost it’s a functioning newsroom in which we discuss progress on each student’s story. It also allows students to share lessons from their other classes with instructors and peers, creating an atmosphere of “cross-pollination,” in which we can all benefit from one student’s curricular experiences.
Crucially, it’s also a platform for additional instruction in some of the most important issues surrounding journalism. Experts in the field regularly visit with the students to guest lecture and help guide their work.
Rather than have the medium determine the story—a frequent tactical error in journalism these days—we let the student identify the best media through which to tell their story. The goal is to offer a range of “concentrations,” such as game design, web development, photography, entrepreneurship, video production, and investigative journalism. We expect some students will mix-and-match among these options.
Thus, Media Innovation students will spend most of their time outside the department. This is very much a conscious choice, and reflective of recent research into the effects of cognitive diversity within organizations. So far news outlets have tried to take programmers and designers and teach them to think like journalists. We believe this is a mistake. We think it’s more important that our students think like coders and designers and entrepreneurs. They can then apply these new modes of thinking to problems specific to the journalistic practices.
- Game Design: A four-course program that provides a firm grasp of the essential fundamentals of game design.
- Entrepreneurship: A four to five-course program in Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business. This concentration fosters innovative, entrepreneurial thinking and prepares students to create their own ventures, in this case, media start-ups. Students study disruption, build business plans, develop marketing strategies, and work closely with both digital journalism and business school faculty to hit the ground running upon graduation.
- Interactive Media: A four-course program in the Department of Art + Design introducing students to using Web and other graphical interfaces to develop news content.
- Database Management: A four-course track in the College of Computer Science that allows a journalist to understand how to gather, format, and query data.
- Data Visualization: A four- or five-course program that trains students to create data-based infographics, maps, diagrams, and charts.
We believe in experiential learning. As such, everything Media Innovation students do is for real-world publication.
As students progress through the program we begin reaching out to our publishing partners, both national and local, to find an ideal outlet for the project. We then bring these professionals in to talk to the students. They’re more than guest lecturers—they’re guest editors, performing real-world tweaks and changes to stories that will ultimately be published on their respective outlets.