St. Louis native Brittany Kohne, 18, will be a freshman at the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media this fall. The Oakville High School graduate is also one of our prestigious Talbert Fellows and a future journalism student.
Kohne said she was attracted to UM’s innovative journalism program, which school leaders recently updated after much research, planning and many in-depth discussions about how to best serve students beyond 2020.
“I am looking at the Political and Social Justice reporting emphasis for my major,” she said. “I am hoping to learn how to cover such topics with the utmost integrity and truth … I think that it is great that Ole Miss is taking a new approach and action to mass media and journalism as a whole.”
Dean Debora Wenger said, beginning this fall, the school’s new journalism curriculum will better position students for future jobs. The biggest changes revolve around four new emphases: Video & TV Storytelling, Multimedia Journalism, Visual Journalism and Political and Social Justice Reporting.
“We know our students have a high interest in video and photo, writing, design, social media and specialty journalism,” Wenger said. “These new emphases give them the opportunity to go deep in an area that they love, while still getting the foundation in journalistic principles that they need.”
Things change rapidly in the media world, and Wenger said the curriculum updates were necessary to remain modern.
“Though our school has been offering relevant journalism instruction for many, many years, that wasn’t always apparent from our course descriptions and emphasis options,” she said. “We know that the audience is consuming more and more news and information on digital platforms and through video, social media and interactive design — now our curriculum more accurately reflects what we’re teaching.”
Wenger said new courses include J270: Digital Story Production, which will immerse students as sophomores into the tools and concepts they need to tell stories across media platforms. Another new course for freshmen is called Visual Principles — helping students understand what it takes to capture a great photo or visualize important information in a graphic.
Debora Wenger. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications
“And those are just two of the new hands-on, experiential classes we have developed for our existing and new students,” she said.
Digital Story Production gives students hands-on instruction about how to use digital media tools to produce interactive stories.
Iveta Imre, an assistant professor of journalism who teaches the course, said students will learn key concepts in audio, video, infographics, images, and other digital technologies. They will learn how to capture engaging audio, photos and video to create effective multimedia stories.
“I think this course is important for the new curriculum because it gives an opportunity to all of our journalism majors, regardless of the emphasis, to learn the basics in multimedia storytelling,” Imre said. “Until now, we had a huge discrepancy between our broadcasting and print majors in terms of skills, and this class is designed to remedy that.”
Imre said this is a new course entirely, and it is envisioned as a culmination of all the core classes all journalism students must take.
“Once they complete this class, the idea is that they would be ready to take the classes within their emphasis, and further develop the skills they learned in the digital story production class,” she said.
Professor Mark Dolan will be teaching Visual Media Principles. Students arrive in the course as novice designers.
“So a first goal is to help them apply what their eyes see, what the brain registers and the heart feels,” he said. “Everyone’s a designer, to some extent. Design begins with the outfit you picked this morning, the sofa you bought and how it fits with the other furniture. Design is in the shape of your water bottle, the logo on your ball cap, the menu you order from.”
This course is about understanding what design means, how it gets communicated, and why, said Dolan, who begins with core principles, such as how items relate to other items on a page or in a photo, or within a video frame or animated space. The class will discuss how elements balance, what is bigger and smaller in the frame, and why such things matter.
“Students this fall explore how these principles function within typography, page design, photography, video, even animation,” said Dolan, who thinks the best part of the class is learning to tell stories through design. This is what happens when the still image meets the type font, when the video sequence interacts with a block of text, he said.
“Sometimes richness and meaning can emerge from one photo, one type font, a video sequence,” he said, “but more often it’s the uniting of these that sparks the biggest impact. To design is like being a stage manager, a selector and coordinator, and telling stories through design is to use your brain, eyes and heart.
“More and more students are asked to design, whether for their class presentation, a professional web site, or their own business card. Not only do students come away with these core skills, they also take the next step in using design to do reporting.”
Oxford native Dalton Whitehead, 18, is also an incoming freshman and Talbert Fellow. The Oxford High School graduate said he has been researching new class additions.
“I absolutely want to develop even better camera skills than I already have and get some job experience in my field,” he said. “I would very much so like to gain more experience with interviewing. I’ve always been a camera man mostly, knowing all the ins and outs of them and all technology, and I am a good interviewer, but I still have a lot to improve on with interviewing.”
Kohne said she toured many schools in Missouri, but none seemed like a perfect fit until she visited UM.
“Once I walked on campus, I knew that it was the school that I saw my future at,” she said. “I chose broadcast journalism because I believe that every person should have the opportunity to share their story with the world, and show others a new perspective on life.
“I loved how Ole Miss had a lot of job opportunities when students graduated, as well as their approach in media as a whole. The journalism department is very forward thinking, which is very important for news media.”
Assistant Dean Scott Fiene said the school plans to update the IMC, or integrated marketing communication, curriculum next.
“The IMC program will be 10 years old in 2021, and while there have been continual tweaks and revisions to the curriculum since that time, the faculty is currently investigating larger changes that may be needed to keep up with the demands of the profession,” he said. “It is anticipated these changes would be implemented starting in fall 2021.”
For more information about the new journalism curriculum, email Wenger.