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How the U of T Scarborough journalism program is surviving – and thriving – in the increasingly murky waters of modern media

Jennifer Lee graduated from the U of T Scarborough Joint Journalism Program in 2015 and is now pursuing law school. “The program prepared me for the path I’m on now,” she says. (Photo by Ken Jones)

Shrinking newsrooms and media job cuts dominate the journalistic landscape. Yet U of T Scarborough’s Joint Journalism Program continues to grow.

Journalism alums Stephanie Hinds (BA, 2016) and Jennifer Lee (BA, 2015) say a desire to inform people on fast-paced developments and having the ability to affect change as factors that brought them to the program.

“People are realizing that they can use their voice and that there is a field where you can base your living off of harnessing your voice and making it known,” says Hinds.

U of T Scarborough’s joint program with Centennial College, which is a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a specialist in journalism that started in 2002, prepares its students for the shifting media world.

“Traditional media organizations are being challenged by the explosion of digital media that disrupt the way people get the news,” says program director Jeffrey Dvorkin.

For two years students are taught journalism while also fulfilling minor program requirements.  The joint program then continues at Centennial College’s Story Arts Centre location. Students produce the college-run newspaper East York Observer, TV newscasts, radio shows and write daily news for the Toronto Observer website.

“University got me thinking like a journalist and when I went to Centennial I started acting, writing and really executing journalism on a daily basis,” says Hinds, who works at CTV as a freelance digital content editor.

Interested in reporting from a young age, she eventually transitioned to the joint program after two years as a history student. Hinds says issues of racial tensions and controversial news about U.S. President Donald Trump reminds her of the important work that journalists do.

“At CTV, it’s the same job every day, but there is different content every single day,” says Hinds. “I deal with different markets throughout the country, so I know what’s going on in Saskatoon, Winnipeg and different parts of Canada.”

Lee discovered a different path for herself during a final project at the Story Arts Centre campus.

“I was one of the two journalism students that got to go to the National Post when they were reporting on a national issue of missing and murdered Indigenous Women in Canada,” she says.

“Listening to these girls speak up about the issues that they face every day as young indigenous women — I wanted to do more for them other than just report their story.”

Although Lee is now pursuing law school, she maintains that fundamental skills gained in the program like managing stress and working to deadlines, are invaluable.

“Journalism and law have many of the same attributes,” she says. “You need to be able to think critically, analytically. You need to be able to write clearly.  You need to make inferences from your information that most people wouldn’t be able to.”

As the media landscape continues to shift, journalistic studies at U of T Scarborough is also evolving. This fall, students can select the journalism stream within Media Studies, to study journalism as an academic subject with less emphasis on practical application.

If a student wants to pursue the academic stream and wants some additional skills training, they can choose a one-year post-graduate ‘fast track’ program in journalism. Students in this new initiative will graduate with a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Media, Journalism and Digital Cultures.

Whatever the name of the degree, Dvorkin is pleased that the program continues to find relevance in its different forms.

“I think that in this somewhat chaotic environment, this is the best time to be studying journalism. The change is real and the consequences are enormous,” he says. “It’s all pretty exciting.”

 

 




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