SDSU Journalism students must look outside JMS program to learn select skills

by Emily Alvarenga, Staff Columnist

Students who choose to come to San Diego State might think there would be plenty of classes to choose from, in an assortment of relevant topics pertaining to their majors. The School of Journalism and Media Studies offers students the opportunity to major in journalism with four different emphases: journalism, advertising, public relations and media studies. This might seem promising, but those who simply major in journalism do not get what they bargained for.

Journalism is a broad field with numerous specialties, yet the variety in elective courses offered does not reflect that.

Journalism students are required to take at least four elective courses, like many other majors, but most semesters offer limited choices. There aren’t classes for entertainment journalism or for feature writing — classes that would be ideal for those who might want to go into the magazine industry. There isn’t even an editing class for students who would like to pursue a career as an editor, or who simply want to improve their writing.

With such limited options, journalism students often take on a minor or double major to broaden their exposure to whatever specialty they’re pursuing. Television, film and media (TFM), English, art and creative writing are common.

Journalism sophomore Sydney Hartman is minoring in art.

“SDSU has a great art program and an accredited journalism program, but why is it that they can’t integrate them or collaborate on a few select classes?” she said. “I took up an art minor after realizing that if I wanted to learn anything about designing a magazine or newspaper I’d have to look elsewhere.”

Hartman is one of many students who have found this frustrating and have looked to other departments to fill in the gap in their journalism training. Some have looked even farther, choosing to study abroad in the hopes of finding another school that offers better options.

Journalism senior Casey Cooper studied abroad in the Netherlands.

“I was able to take classes in magazine design, editing for print and feature writing,” she said. “In one semester abroad, I felt more prepared for my future career as a magazine journalist than in all my time at State combined.”

It’s not all bad in JMS.

They have done a wonderful job keeping up with the technological advancements in the industry. They have created quite a few digital media courses, some of which have either been integrated into the major’s required course load or entirely replaced outdated course material.  Students now learn about social media, HTML and CSS coding. They are also taught how to create their own websites.

In today’s digital media world, skills like these are becoming more and more essential. There are more career paths to choose from than ever. With so many opportunities, JMS should provide courses that go beyond the typical curriculum of hard-hitting, long-form journalism.

Over the past 10 years, the journalism department has offered only two classes related to broadcast journalism: Television News Reporting and Producing and Radio-Television News Writing and Editing. Television news reporting and producing is offered once a year, in the spring. This 16-week course covers every aspect of broadcast journalism — from writing and producing to reporting and editing.

“Everything felt rushed,” Kyle Oldham, journalism junior, said. “The semester went by so fast. After taking the class, I don’t feel prepared to go into broadcast journalism after I graduate, which is not why I came to SDSU. I considered taking the class again until I realized that I couldn’t because of the course repeat policy.”

Other journalism related classes, such as sports, fashion and photojournalism have been offered as “advanced topics,” offered once a year and not guaranteed to return. Some are classified as “special topics,” meaning they are condensed courses that only meet three or four times a semester. Most special topics courses require students to pay an additional fee and one is scheduled on weekends.

Journalism senior Jacob Sandoval said it was not enough to prepare him for a career in his field.

“I want to be a sports journalist, but I’ve only taken one class on it,” he said. “Everything I learned and practiced was so tedious and repetitive that it has swayed me away from confidently entering the field.”

Although every school is different, other CSU schools give their students better opportunities. Cal State Fullerton, for example, gives students the chance to work in a professional broadcast studio. Titan Communications, their digital media center, has fully-equipped radio and television studios so students can learn production hands-on.

While the journalism department has done a great job of integrating innovative digital media skills into course work, students are left in the dark and without the skills essential for careers in other fields of journalism. There’s more to journalism than just a news story, and it’s time SDSU gave their students more options.