Cooperation, not competition, is the innovative mantra in journalism education

As schools of journalism wrestle with the challenges of a fast changing communications environment, along with its associated economic uncertainties, it seems cooperation, and not competition, is a viable strategy for innovation in journalism education.

Like all other institutions of higher education, schools of journalism need to constantly think in collective terms, regardless of their discipline or level, in the ways they deliver quality training to young people across the globe.

Such cooperation includes rethinking the very nature of the assessment of individual performance, says Jean-Pierre Benghozi of the Management Research Center of the Ecole Polytechnique, as he summed up the conclusions of the just ended 5th edition of the conférence nationale des métiers du journalisme (CNMJ), which ran from 2 to 3 October at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.  

In many ways, individual performance assessment misses seeing the extent to which students need to be prepared for a collaborative media production environment.

In this regard, the Guardian’s experience of collaborative news production was offered as a model of how students would need to face up to the reality of treating the readership as a “content editor, an expert, a checker, a relay and even a diffuser”.

Following on from last year’s conference, also held at the UNESCO headquarters, the focus this year was on comparing French and other European experiences in training innovation.

With this in mind, the conference participants heard from editors representing the BBC, Swedish TV, and the Guardian as well as trainers from the universities of Neuchatel, Leuven and Madrid.

The conference also focused on the place and role of young journalists in strategies for processing editorial content, organization and operations of the newsroom. A survey focusing on how young people “imagined” their future journalistic careers was presented.

A key finding of the study was that the practices in training journalism students bore the mark of their previous education, often emphasizing the traditional disciplines of history, literature and the primacy of writing, with very few references to ICT-driven skills in mobile and other forms of digital journalism.

A political addition to the conference was that the new Minister of Culture and Communication, Ms Fleur Pellerin, took time to have lunch with the 14 accredited French schools of journalism.  Together, they reflected on the wide-ranging changes influencing the journalism profession, including the adequacy of training programmes to address these changes.