Communications program adds sports media, visual journalism emphases

Daily Universe senior reporter Kaitlyn Bancroft, right, and Metro Editor Sahalie Donaldson work on their articles for The Daily Universe. (Arianna Davidson)

BYU’s news media program will roll out a revised curriculum including new emphases in sports media and digital-and-visual journalism beginning Spring 2019.

In addition to the new emphases, the capstone class — traditionally taken at the end of the major — will be replaced by an internship and a media ethics class will be added.

Journalism sequence coordinator Kris Boyle said faculty members have been discussing updates to the news media program for more than a year.

“We work in an industry that is always changing,” Boyle said. “We wanted to make sure we’re providing (our students) with all the tools they would need to be successful. Sometimes that requires looking at what you are teaching and stepping it up a bit.”

According to Boyle, the new cognates — specialized tracks within the news media major — were conceived based on growing areas of journalism and areas students gravitated toward after graduation.

The digital-and-visual journalism track will focus less on writing and more on visual storytelling, according to Boyle. It will include classes like photojournalism and advanced digital design.

Another addition, sports media, will teach courses on sports media publishing and sports reporting.

Broadcasting student Paul Swenson works the camera for Newsline sports. (Arianna Davidson)

Journalism graduate student Aaron Fitzner, who graduated from Minnesota State with an undergraduate degree in sports management, is particularly excited about this track. As the sports editor for The Daily Universe, Fitzner said he believes there should be more programs for sports writers.

“There’s not a lot that’s specific to sports especially when it comes to communications that’s offered period, but especially at BYU,” Fitzner said. “It will be nice to have that branch for students that want to get into sports media.”

Boyle said there is still considerable student interest in traditional broadcast and journalistic reporting. Existing labs like the student-led newspaper and news show will continue.

“(These new programs are) only going to strengthen what we already do,” Boyle said. “I think we have a really strong product in the Universe; I think we do a lot of great things across the sequence. All this is doing is strengthening what is already a good product.”

Regardless of their cognate, every news media student will also be required to take a media ethics class. According to Boyle, this was a school-wide rather than program specific change. Regardless, Boyle believes the course will be an important addition to the curriculum.

“There is a greater need now more than any other time for a good foundation in ethics,” Boyle said.

Possibly one of the most notable changes to the curriculum will be the removal of capstone projects in favor of internships. Sam Bigelow, a senior reporter for the Universe and one of the last students who will graduate under the current program, said he believes this change will positively impact the students.

Daily Universe designer Amanda Lund formats articles for the print edition of the newspaper. (Arianna Davidson)

“I think those same things could be accomplished at a place like the Deseret News,” Bigelow said. “I know they’re definitely encouraging people to start looking at podcasts they could do and trying to grow in different ways to serve their market.”

Ultimately, Boyle said news media faculty hope the revised curriculum will offer a greater number of students a strong skill set for entering the news media world.

“I think that this revised curriculum is making it a little bit more marketable, a little bit more attractive to those who don’t know a lot about what we do but maybe have an interest in some of these areas like sports or visual content creation,” Boyle said. “Our hope is that this brings them in as well.”

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