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"What sort of journalism do we need to teach?" is the question at the heart of a new book Challenges and New Directions in Journalism Education.

In the UK, university is the main way to enter the profession - nine in 10 journalists hold a university qualification.

Speaking on the Journalism.co.uk podcast, book editor Karen Fowler-Watt, said she wanted to lift the lid on how curriculums were designed. She explores various topics with a range of academic peers and every chapter includes a reality check from her journalism students.

"It’s about showing students how messy, difficult, challenging and unfinished journalism is," says Fowler-Watt, Bournemouth University professor of journalism and a former BBC senior producer.

Diversity on the agenda

Something many students were quick to remark on is the need for greater diversity and inclusion in journalism.

In practice, that means journalists need to include diverse sources in their reporting but also show solidarity for their under-represented peers.

In the book, two young black journalists spoke about how they feel the pressure to be the expert in the room on subjects like racial tensions or equality.

Ethnicity is a key concern - with 88 per cent of UK journalists being white, according to the NCTJ's last diversity report - but so is socio-economic background. Many lamented how hard it is to enter the profession without parental privileges, and the financial burden of work experience.

Emotional intelligence

Recent journalism graduates have lived through some historic moments, like the coronavirus pandemic and two big wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

This has brought into sharp focus the need for emotional literacy, resilience and both emotional and physical safety.

Bournemouth University is connected with the Dart Centre so that all students are trained in self-care and trauma awareness. But visiting speakers also talk about their lived experience in a frank, realistic way instead of glorifying "war stories".

"Building resilience is more important than learning the latest piece of software because any news organisation will teach you what you use to edit," says Fowler-Watt.

"It's much more important they have the soft skills that are crucial to sustain themselves as a journalist in the industry as it is right now."

Educators have to tread a fine line here between giving them a dose of reality, and not putting them off altogether.

Make media law sexy again

Public affairs and media law are essential components of journalism training, there is no getting away from it. The stakes are too high for substandard reporting.

These are dull topics in the eyes of many young people, and journalism educators need to introduce case studies or play into their sense of values as many are passionate about the purpose of the profession.

It can be a rich source of important and engaging content though. The news agenda this year has thrown up many examples from the government and the court system. Look no further than the covid-19 inquiry or the Lucy Letby trials and how news organisations have reported those stories.

Podcasting and personalities

Journalism students seem to love podcasts but perceive them as an opinionated medium that is not always in line with journalism.

Bournemouth University has introduced podcasting to its curriculum in recent years, recognising the rise of the medium and news podcasts as a whole, like BBC's Newscast and Global Media's The News Agents in particular.

These news podcasts speak to a broader trend of personality-driven media, where journalists can get more personal. Greater guidance is needed about where balance can be won and lost.

A generation of risk-takers and experimenters

Podcasts - as well as newsletters and platforms like TikTok - provide a lower barrier to entry for newcomers and those with an entrepreneurial mind.

The fundamentals of employability used to be just hard skills, a good CV and a strong portfolio. Anyone wanting to be a successful freelancer or launch a new media startup needs to have the risk-taking mindset that traditionally belongs to entrepreneurs.

Being experimental is also something a lot of established news organisations need, as they look for new ways to innovate workflows, write stories and discover audiences.

These are skills a lot of young journalists have in spades and something educators - as well as employers - should look to cultivate.

"We as educators need to show that taking a risk and getting things wrong is okay - I don’t mean ending up in court because you don’t know your media law - I mean creatively," says Fowler-Watt.

"Invest in their confidence to follow their gut, take a risk and see if it works in a well-informed way, which means not putting themselves or others at physical or mental risk."

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