What should a journalism student learn?

What should a student who has gone through a community college journalism program and either got a degree or transferred to a university be able to do or have learned?

That’s one of the questions California community college journalism programs will be having in the future as part of their Student Learning Outcome discussions associated with their college’s accreditation.

Most California community college journalism programs probably already have developed Student Learning Outcomes for their courses, but the next step will be to develop program-level SLOs as well. Presumably, they will evolve from the course-level SLOs.

(Note: Some campuses, such as my own, are defining “program” much more broadly, such as “general education,” or “transfer.” But if you approach SLOs as more than a compliance issue and embrace it as a way to evaluate and improve your own programs, you may want to ask the question above whether your school requires it or not. It certainly will help come Program Review time. College programs must periodically review just what it is they are doing and where they are going.)

So, what SHOULD a student be learning? Can you articulate what you know in your gut? Can you define it to outsiders and do you have a way of measuring whether you’ve succeeded?

Let’s start a discussion on this and see if we help those who may be having trouble articulating them. Here’s my BEGINNING list of 10, in no particular order. It would be interesting to hear if there are others you think are important.


1. Be able to take a list of at least five facts and write a news lead.

2. Be able to develop a story from idea to research/interview, to story, through editing and publishing stages.

3. To develop a basic awareness and understanding of media law issues, especially libel and copyright.

4. To develop an awareness of the operation of and history of traditional media and discuss the changing environment of mass media.

5. To develop a portfolio of written articles suitable for publication in a newspaper or for a news organization web site.

6. Be able to analyze the elements of design of a newspaper page, a magazine layout and a news web site.

7. Be able to write a cutline/caption for a news, feature or sports photo if given basic facts about the photo.

8. Be able to write a headline for a news, feature, sports or opinion article.

9. Be able to post a story or upload a photograph to an online publication content management system.

10. Develop a portfolio of multimedia projects that tell journalistic stories. The portfolio could include video, audio, visual storytelling (slide shows), blogs.


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