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A UVM journalism program? It just might happen.

April 4, 2017

Probably I’ll need to change the tagline to this blog, which came into existence a decade ago with the subtitle:

the UVM J-blog: when you realize that the University of Vermont has no journalism program

As local alt-weekly Seven Days reports in its most recent issue, the University of Vermont is indeed moving toward creating a journalism major. A committee began meeting last summer and, though we didn’t make any public announcement about the effort, members of UVM’s media organizations have been providing advice from the beginning. So have alumni, who we brought together into a Listserv to provide advice for an undertaking that we hope will improve the academic experience for UVM students who say they want a journalism major—and there appear to be a lot of them. As adviser to The Vermont Cynic, I regularly hear from students who want to enter the journalism field and want UVM to offer a program—forward-thinking and multimedia—to meet their needs.

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Seven Days reports in its most recent issue about UVM’s plans to design a journalism major.

For those of you who know the Cynic well, there’s been one overriding sentiment: Make it good, but make sure the Cynic stays independent. I’ve heard this from both students and alumni in commentary spiked with a tinge of anxiety. For many Cynics, the best part of the UVM journalism experience has been the ability to chart their own course, to design a student-run, working newsroom without university oversight.

There’s no reason for that to change. Here’s how I explained it to Seven Days:
The university currently offers academic credits to students who work on the Cynic and on-campus TV and radio stations. “We’ll continue to give students space to develop their skills in real-world situations — a working newsroom, TV station or radio station — where students set the agenda,” Evans said. “The only difference would be that many students in the journalism major might have more formal training before they walk into student media offices.”
For UVM student media, then, any changes should be supplementary rather than revolutionary. For Cynic members and alumni, in particular, there’s a certain If it ain’t broke quality to the UVM journalism experience, but giving budding journalists more educational opportunities would certainly have its upsides.
The program might be of even greater value to The Cynic’s sibling, UVMtv, which produces news shows but doesn’t have the Cynic’s established news-gathering infrastructure. A new journalism program would, by necessity (and all that is journalistically holy in the modern media age) focus heavily on multimedia. While video efforts most certainly would include the mini-doc style of videos done so well by the New York Times video team and others, traditional TV news formats should benefit as well.
We’re early enough in the process of designing this major for us to take new perspectives into account: to get things right. I’d encourage anyone who cares about this kind of thing to speak up. Leave a comment on this story or, even better, contact your favorite UVM power-broker. Tell them what you want to see. Help UVM get it right.
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