In a media environment where virtually anyone can share any idea instantly across a global platform, the role of the informed and objective journalist is more important than ever.
To help students develop the skills and perspective to become ethical and effective reporters, editors, and communicators, Knox will begin offering a major in journalism starting in fall 2021.
A journalism education, said Jim Dyer, assistant professor and chair of journalism, teaches students “how to think fast on their feet, how to critically analyze complex situations, and how to use their curiosity to ask salient follow-up questions and get coherent answers.”
The program builds upon the College’s existing journalism minor and its respected student media outlets, including the award-winning student-run newspaper, The Knox Student. The goal is to provide students with a strong and well-rounded foundation in information-gathering and written and visual communication, as well as an understanding of the historical and social contexts of journalism.
In a time when once-accepted “facts” have become a matter of dispute, it’s not enough that reporting simply be accurate. “It also needs to provide important context in an objective manner. This is why a liberal arts college like Knox is ideal for an education in journalism and communications,” said Dyer.
While journalism majors can explore the specific challenges of reporting for print, broadcast, or digital outlets through a 10-week practicum at a professional media outlet, the emphasis of the curriculum is on impartial, transparent, ethical, and evidence-based reporting across all media. “Knox has a strong tradition of fearless investigative and public advocacy journalism that dates back to the original ‘muckrakers’ of the late 19th and early 20th century,” said Dyer. “One thing that defines our curriculum is the understanding that journalists have a civic responsibility to help the public understand the events of the day and be able to hold their leaders accountable.” In that tradition, the major also includes a civic engagement component that will enable students to use their skills on behalf of the communities where they live and work.
Because fair and objective information is what makes democracy possible, one of the most important—and challenging—things journalism students learn at Knox is how to recognize their own biases and not allow them to shape their reporting. “Sometimes showing left-leaning or right-leaning students the inherent bias in their articles makes me unpopular in the classroom,” acknowledged Dyer. “That’s okay. As long as students eventually recognize the explicit or implicit slant in their writing, we’re doing our jobs.”
While the industry-wide consolidation of traditional news outlets continues to reshape the professional landscape for journalists, there is no shortage of opportunities for students to get extensive experience before they graduate and to develop a strong network of industry contacts.
Kyle Williams ’22, for instance, plans to work in sports media after graduation, and has found opportunities to work as a traditional sports reporter, an editor, an announcer, and a video producer during his time at Knox. “I started working for The Knox Student as a freshman, and I’ve been the sports editor since my sophomore year.” This summer, he is working as a digital media production intern for Marquee Sports Network, which broadcasts Chicago Cubs baseball.
Because of the relatively small size of Knox’s student body, Williams said, he’s been able “to form personal relationships with many of my professors. [They] have helped me become a better writer, researcher, and communicator.”
Learn more about the journalism program at Knox.