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Kim: Journalism 202 is unproductive, should not be Medill graduation requirement

Yvonne Kim, Opinion Editor

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Ever since I first considered transferring from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences to the Medill School of Journalism Media, Integrated Marketing Communications during Winter Quarter of my freshman year, I have consistently put off taking Journalism 202.

The course, titled “Philosophy of Modern Journalism,” is a requirement for journalism students to graduate from Medill and is most often taken sometime during freshman year. It is designed to offer insight into 21st-century topics relevant to journalism through discussions about the way media influences reporting and lectures about how different news outlets have affected journalism over time. And though these topics are surely important to be discussed within a journalism curriculum, the way the class is taught and approached has been unproductive and provided little value to Medill students.

Each time I had the opportunity to take the course over the past five quarters, I made the decision not to because it was hard to fit a class meeting once a week among the other courses I wanted to fit into my schedule. I was told that if I had to put off any journalism class, 202 would be the best choice, and hence I continued to do so. This quarter, after shifting around my schedule a bit, I was able to take the course for three hours each week on Thursday morning. And though I ultimately dropped the course, for personal reasons entirely unrelated to the reasons I outline here, my experience in 202 helped me understand why so many students had joked and warned me about it before.

I will now have to take this course sometime my junior year, and that alone speaks to the fact that it offers little substantive knowledge about what it means to be a journalism major. Rather, it functions as a place-holding requirement that students take to get out of the way and is not necessary for subsequent classes. Journalism 201-1, in contrast, is a rigorous, reporting-heavy class that first trains freshmen to report and write a standard news story. Similarly, Journalism 201-2 does almost exactly what 202 is supposed to do — expose students to media and new, 21st-century forms of journalism — but in a more effective, real world setting through digital media stories. And this is precisely why 201-1 and 201-2 serve as prerequisites for later, more intensive reporting courses, while 202 does not.

Journalism 202 ultimately attempts to do exactly what Medill professors constantly stress is impossible: teach journalism in a sit-down, classroom setting. Admittedly, the topics covered in 202 are often important. I am definitely interested in exploring how certain forms of media can be more effective in telling certain stories, the importance of understanding modern audiences and so on. Yet, it is nearly impossible to understand and discuss journalism while sitting in a lecture hall with almost 100 students and one professor, with no opportunities to actually report on the stories or meet the people we are studying. I can confidently say that I was much more able to learn these skills in classes like 201-1 and 201-2, and even more so through my own explorations of journalism outside the classroom in creative writing or at The Daily Northwestern.

For first-year students in particular, this course, taken either before or after 201-1 and 201-2, does little. If taken during the fall of freshman year, as I know was the case for many journalism friends, 202 stands as a theory-based class lacking substance for students who do not yet have sufficient experience to actually discuss these issues. If taken after other required courses, it feels like busy work to debrief other, more formative journalism experiences. And especially for inter-school transfer students like myself — who still may be pursuing prior degrees or trying to squeeze new journalism courses into their schedules — planning around a weekly, three-hour chunk of time eliminates many other interesting class options from our schedules. Ultimately, Medill would do good to remove 202 from its graduation requirement entirely and more explicitly incorporate its elements into other freshman courses and throughout the journalism curriculum.

Yvonne Kim is a Weinberg sophomore. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members at The Daily Northwestern.

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