Weathering the Web storm

By on December 9, 2009

Things are changing in the world of journalism, and Quinnipiac University has embraced the fast-paced world of the Web.

With newspapers in decline, it brings to light other prominent options in the journalism field, such as magazines and the Internet.

U.S. Metropolitan dailies such as the Rocky Mountain News, the Tucson Citizen and the Baltimore Examiner closed in 2009. Alternatively, formerly print-only publications such as the Christian Science Monitor, New York Sun, Capital Times and Ann Arbor News have adopted hybrid online/print or online-only models.

But the number of journalism majors have remained steady over the past four years, and the University now requires all print and broadcast majors to take Reporting for the Web.

“We understand that down the road, there’s going to be a merging of these skills, and journalists coming from these two different traditions are going to find themselves working in a common ground,” said Margarita Diaz, assistant professor of journalism and chairperson of the journalism department. “We are trying to account for that. It gives them the tools and the understanding of the differences between reporting for a multimedia format versus reporting for print or broadcast.”

Kenn Venit, adjunct associate professor of journalism, agreed.

“You basically have to have a Web component in any kind of journalism today, and that’s sort of the bridge between the print and the broadcast,” he said.

Taking into account Quinnipiac’s high tuition, parents at open houses expressed concern about paying for a print journalism education without their child being guaranteed a job.

“The big question I’m getting [from parents] is, ‘Why should I pay $44,000 a year, for four years, for my son or daughter to come out and make starvation wages, and not necessarily being able to count on that being their career?'” Venit said. “That is a tough question.

“The answer is that Quinnipiac prepares students to be successful in the ‘new’ media and in the evolution of the ‘old’ media into hybrids. Having a minor as a requirement significantly increases the number of career options for all communications majors. The internships often lead to employment, sooner or later. Those who add the study abroad component almost invariably accelerate their maturity levels. School of Communications graduates will likely be able to move up the career and financial ladders because of their versatility, specialized skills, networking, and all sorts of ‘value-added’ attributes. One might say that adds up to a ‘priceless’ education.”

Isabel Bart, a sophomore, changed her major from print journalism to media studies.

“I kept hearing ‘You’re going into a dying industry,’ which wasn’t the greatest thing to be hearing,” Bart said. “But at the same time, I was thinking I.could still do something else with communications that I’m interested in. [Changing to media studies] might give me more opportunities to expand the job market search, so if print journalism didn’t work out this could always be a fall back because I have a wider range of experience.”

Other print journalism majors remain passionate about writing and will pursue print regardless of job prospects.

“The decline of newspapers is a definite issue in the world we live in today, but that hasn’t really made me want to stop studying journalism,” said Bobby Michelin, a junior print journalism major. “I’d rather do something in life that I enjoy, rather than study something else that I don’t want to do for the rest of my life, just because I’ll have a better shot at getting a job after college.”

Stephanie Coppola, another junior print journalism major, decided to take the risk and follow her dream.

“I thought about switching at first because I thought that maybe I wouldn’t be able to find a job within the field. But then I realized that being a journalist has always been my dream, so I didn’t want to turn my back on it,” Coppola said. “I figured that if newspapers continue to decline the way they’ve been, I would always be willing to write for a magazine or an online newspaper.”

Magazines are a touch-and-go publication, with 752 new titles launched between September 2008 and September 2009, including Food Network Magazine and Disney 23. Conversely, as many as 383 titles have folded in 2009 as of October, including Country Home, Modern Bride and, most notably, Gourmet.

Sixty-four magazines have gone from print to online-only publication this year.

Consumers have multiple sources to replace what is missing from their local papers. Aside from magazines, the Internet, for example, provides access to other local, national and international news outlets at the click of a mouse.

The Internet has made newspapers more widely read than ever before, generally being free of charge and lacking the problems of circulation and advertising. Online publication is clearly the direction that journalism is heading.

Hyperlocal news reporting has become quite popular, and has proven to be the right choice for Patch.com editor Jen Connic.

“People don’t want news just about their local community, but it’s certainly a part of what they want. People want to connect with their hometowns and their neighbors, and in their busy lives an online forum is the best way for them to get that news and those connections,” Connic said.

Connic, a 2006 alumnus of Quinnipiac’s graduate journalism program, moved online a few years ago and is currently the editor of the Millburn-Short Hills branch of Patch.com in New Jersey. The Web site currently offers hyperlocal reporting for 12 towns in New Jersey and five in Connecticut, but will soon extend to 15 in New Jersey and 11 in New York.

“Once you go Web, you just don’t go back,” Connic said. “There are so many things to love about it. There are so many different ways to tell a story. There’s an unlimited newshole, and stories can be published now, not tomorrow morning.”

Quinnipiac University prepares its students for every eventuality, giving them the opportunity to take print classes such as Reporting for Print, Writing for Magazines and Reporting for the Web.

“The people who seem to have the journalism crystal ball don’t have a very high accuracy rate. It’s changing but nothing is becoming extinct, not in the foreseeable future,” Venit said.

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