Boston College will introduce an interdisciplinary minor in journalism this fall as a two-year pilot program, open to undergraduates across the University.

The six-course minor offers a classic liberal arts model, according to program organizers: Students from a variety of majors receive a grounding in reportorial and writing skills as well as the history and tradition of journalism; they also are encouraged to consider how the foundational craft and tenets of journalism can be used in a rapidly shifting media and technological climate.

Angela Ards and Carlo Rotella
Angela Ards, who developed the program with English colleague Professor Carlo Rotella, will serve as director of the minor. (Gary Wayne Gilbert)

Program faculty include veteran, accomplished journalism professionals along with scholars drawing on literary, business/management, medical, technological and other perspectives. Some 30 undergraduates are expected to be in the first cohort of journalism minors.

Students taking the minor select from a range of courses on foundational journalism, such as Political Reporting, The Art of Editing, Investigative Journalism, and Journalism and Ethics, as well as writing in specific styles or for specialized areas, including features, magazines, food, travel, sports, and music.

Those courses would be supplemented by others cross-listed through different schools, departments or programs, among them: Reporting Civil Rights (English; African and African Diaspora Studies); Health Journalism (Medical Humanities Program); The Business of Journalism (Carroll School of Management); and News Media & Democracy (Communication).

 “At Boston College, we consistently stress the importance of bringing the liberal arts into direct, ongoing conversation with the wider contemporary world,” says Associate Professor of English Angela Ards, who developed the program with English colleague Professor Carlo Rotella, and will serve as director of the minor.

“This is a perfect example: We want students to understand how journalism is a discipline unto itself – with a set of enduring skills, practices and ethics – that one can study much like law or history. We also want them to learn about the new skills and platforms that have emerged in journalism during the past decade or so, like podcasting, blogs and data journalism.

“Then we want them to look at the big question: How can I use this discipline? How does it intersect with my career interests?” continues Ards, a participating faculty member in the African and African Diaspora Studies Program. “Maybe students envisioning a future in the sciences or health professions, politics or international affairs, or undergraduates with a keen interest in compelling social issues, will see themselves as journalists.”

Rotella, director of the American Studies Program, notes that journalism continues to be an in-demand program of study at BC, with upwards of 15 courses per semester offered. The minor will offer an alternative path, he says, while maintaining the fundamental elements of journalism.

“The landscape for the profession may have changed, but the basics of journalism are more in demand than ever: doing the necessary legwork to get reliable information, then analyzing and presenting it clearly and incisively,” says Rotella, who like Ards has extensive experience in journalism and will serve on the program’s steering committee.

Much as past generations of college journalists gained experience working on their high school newspapers, Rotella notes that many in the current generation arrive on campus already well-versed in blogging or other forms of social media – but potentially reaching a far greater audience than their predecessors could imagine.

“Because of the way technology has lowered barriers to mass communication, these students are essentially already involved in the profession,” he says. “If you write for a fashion, food or sports blog, you already understand some important things, like making deadlines and writing for a particular audience. In designing the minor, we want to blend that experience with the tools and craft of traditional journalism.    

“Ideally, students would know how to cover a city council meeting – the classic assignment for a reporter – but also be able to sort through a pile of data and create a podcast.”

Read more about the journalism minor faculty and courses here.

Sean Smith | University Communications