Journalists in Training
By Kim Pavlick, Ph.D., & Laurie McMillan, Ph.D.
Boot Camp Offers Students Inside Look at News Industry
* The following is an excerpt from the spring 2012 issue of Ignite, the University’s academic journal.
As college educators struggle to help students integrate their learning into real-world practice in terms of both career preparation and civic engagement, The University of Scranton has found a way to meet this challenge by teaming up with two community partners.
Now in its fifth year, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Journalism Boot Camp – a collaborative effort with The Times-Tribune and Marywood University – helps students understand and apply curricular learning through interdisciplinary sessions serving both professional and liberal arts goals. The boot camp allows students to spend a Saturday with professionals from The Times-Tribune, Scranton’s hometown newspaper, to learn about the various facets of the news business.
However, participants have found that the program does far more than simply offer vocational training.
Journalism is a professional field that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries as it offers insights and tools that can benefit camp attendees with a spectrum of career goals. Highlighting topics such as writing, research, ethics and legal issues, the boot camp mirrors many of the courses commonly required in a general education curriculum. The day is made especially relevant as participants choose from a menu of sessions to explore their own interests. The boot camp uses the lens of journalism to focus on educating the whole person.
The camp began as a collaborative effort between Kim Pavlick, Ph.D., a communication professor at Scranton, and Larry Beaupre, managing editor of The Times-Tribune. The project was the brainchild of Beaupre, who at heart is a true educator. He was interested in developing a program that would help his employees share their skills with upcoming journalists. Looking to make the seminar more interdisciplinary, Dr. Pavlick and Beaupre invited Laurie McMillan, Ph.D., an English professor at Marywood, to join the project in 2009.
In 2008, the event’s first year, 75 Scranton students learned how a newspaper works from its conception in the newsroom to the product that is delivered daily to people’s homes. Since then, the boot camp has had similarly strong student participation in each successive year. The hour-long seminars highlight topics such as ethics, newsroom culture, photography, copyediting, research and various types of writing. Although the nine-hour day can be exhausting, the initial feedback from students was extremely positive.
Learning from reporters in the field helps students understand the practicalities of working in the media, especially the importance of interpersonal communication. Students come to understand its significance during Lifestyles Editor Faith Golay’s seminar on newsroom culture, which details the interpersonal dynamics of the staff and stresses the importance of good human interaction in order to make a quality product.
The journalists who participate in the boot camp volunteer to do so, and they are genuinely interested in getting to know students. That makes it easier for students to probe for details about a journalist’s lifestyle, and ask questions such as, “How can I get a job in the industry?”
The lessons learned at the camp span critical thinking, communication, interpersonal skills and ethics in ways that sharpen the cognitive and affective abilities of all participants. The boot camp thus benefits all types of students – not just future journalists – by focusing on higher order thinking and skills that are needed in both professional and civic realms.