Crawford: Medill x SESP is the future we deserve

Colin Crawford, Columnist

Solutions journalism is a push within the journalism industry to report not only on social issues but also on how people are working to resolve these problems. This type of reporting is about the bigger picture behind a problem and if measures currently in place are working. The goal of solutions journalism is to provide readers with a deeper understanding of a problem and its potential solutions, thereby promoting informed citizenship. 

For example, instead of just reporting on climate change, stories explaining why current policies are ineffective or what countries are doing to mitigate this problem are essential to providing a fuller picture of the issue. 

Without these stories, the news is a source of anxiety for many. Solutions journalism is attempting to change that. 

Organizations like the Solutions Journalism Network seek to inform people about what solutions journalism is and why it is important. Too often, reporters relegate success stories to the back burner and give preference to doom and gloom. 

The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications is definitely aware of this movement, and the first-year introductory curriculum touches on the topic. But even if Medill is educating its students about it, there seems to be institutional barriers to giving students the education needed for this burgeoning section of the industry. 

There is a clear pathway to achieving a solutions journalism education without making substantial curriculum changes within Medill. Instead, Medill needs to form a closer partnership with the School of Education and Social Policy, which includes a variety of classes that cover social policy. Imagine a world in which journalism students can also get extensive public policy education. This would greatly aid the movement currently revolutionizing the industry. 

Medill students are highly encouraged to pursue second majors or minors, and students are also required to fill a Weinberg concentration of five courses in the same department to complete their degree. 

But Medill students cannot double major in SESP or fulfill their concentration in a SESP program because the concentration is restricted to Weinberg programs only. This policy is restrictive, and the two schools should be working on a solution to this problem. This idea is an old one that has been brought up numerous times, but no real action has been taken in terms of strengthening the bond between Medill and SESP.

In order to truly allow NU to become a university that follows the creed of “AND is in our DNA,” these barriers across schools should not be so strict. It is understandable that double majoring between Medill and SESP would require a substantial course load and would restrict the number of elective classes, but this doesn’t explain why Medill students can’t use SESP to fill their concentration requirement. 

Medill prides itself on being the best journalism school in the country, and it has an amazing pre-professional program. But, I worry it solely prepares students for their role as heralders of the news rather than their role as explainers and sense-makers. 

It has become increasingly apparent that while the industry has evolved substantially, Medill has remained stagnant. It feels like Medill still thinks the road to a journalism career is in a brick and mortar newsroom, and as highlighted by Sama Ben Amer’s piece in North by Northwestern, an extremely white one at that. 

It is no secret Medill has an accessibility problem. In a world where media literacy is more important than ever, few Medill courses are open to Northwestern students outside of Medill. In doing so, Medill itself perpetuates this problem. Not only are other students unable to access Medill, but Medill students are also isolated from their peers.

Change is gradual, and Medill has a long way to go, but there are certain steps that should be taken sooner rather than later. Allowing students to pursue academic opportunities in SESP is one of them. 

A Medill and SESP collaboration is what students deserve because it would allow us to enter the industry better suited to serving communities and informing people about issues in a fuller way. Medill has a unique opportunity to create a responsible reporter: one who listens, researches and delves deeper to find the bigger picture. The tools are all here, at NU — they just need to be used. 

Colin Crawford is a Medill first-year. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, 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 of The Daily Northwestern.