New position may improve future of journalism education

Marisol Medina/Staff Writer

Innovator in Residence. That’s the title that will sport a newcomer and innovator, thanks to an initiative organized by the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The Innovator in Residence will lead the way to a more digitally-oriented curriculum by working with students and faculty developing cutting-edge media projects and new courses geared to make the students digital know-it-alls.

Raul Reis, SJMC Dean, said his vision for the school prioritizes innovation not only technological but also in the way students are taught.

“I think that a school of journalism and mass communication has to prepare students to deal with the future and what the future of media and communication will be,” he said.

The program is the first in the country and it comes to FIU through a $1.25 million endowment previously awarded by the James L. Knight Foundation. In addition, the foundation has also granted SJMC $150,000 over three years to support the initiative.

“We will profit from someone in the industry who can come here and talk about the technology industry and what the future will be about,” said Reis.

The innovator will be rotated every year, and active professionals in the field are invited to apply.

“We are looking at what we don’t have,” said Reis, adding that the ideal candidate would be someone that could bring skills the school currently doesn’t teach.

Matt Haggman, program director at Knight Foundation, said the initiative will not only strengthen FIU’s journalism program, but will also succeed in bringing important thinkers to Miami.

“These thought leaders will have the opportunity to explore the many ideas burgeoning in the city and help further fuel this momentum,” he said.

Eric Newton, Knight Foundation senior adviser to the president, said that these type of positions are rare in journalism education but they can lead to important change.

Talking about the future of media, Reis said he believes news will never cease to exist, because people need information. However, content needs to be rich and most of all, attractive.

He imagines the innovator will engage in project-based teaching in things like social media, search engine optimization or web developing.

“We have to teach people how to do all the traditional things a reporter does, and also teach the new skills while anticipating what the future will look like,” said Reis.

He said that foundations such as the Knight Foundation, are looking at how journalism is taught, and one of the things they are proposing is the teaching hospital.

“Think about how doctors are taught, by being in a hospital, surrounded by real doctors, working with real patients,” he said.

He said the model is about partnering up with media, like newspapers and television stations, websites, public relations and advertising agencies to give students a hands-on training, and is already being implemented at SJMC.

“This is a big deal,” he said. “It gives us more prominence nationally, and is very transformational, not only for what it is, but for it can become.”

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