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‘Not a history project’: Investigating how journalism education changed through the pandemic

A special issue of Facts and Frictions' examines the impact of pandemic-related restrictions on journalism education Continue Reading ‘Not a history project’: Investigating how journalism education changed through the pandemic

“Forced Change: Pandemic Pedagogy and Journalism Education” is a special multimedia issue of Facts and Frictions now online, featuring 20 educators from across Canada who share how they reimagined course content and delivery during and since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“It is important for us to have a shared record of what teaching through the pandemic has looked like,” says Trish Audette-Longo, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University and the lead editor of this special issue. “We need to consider what we’ve learned, not just from the mechanics of teaching online but how engagement with students has changed, and what students are asking for in journalism programs.” One of the key takeaways from this special issue, co-edited by Audette-Longo, Christine Crowther, Nana aba Duncan, Chantal Francoeur and Shenaz Kermalli, is the value of having a community of educators and students.

The issue includes articles, commentary pieces, a course outline, a video resource list, four podcast episodes and adjoining listening party materials. It addresses themes of forced change, novel approaches to teaching, trauma-informed reporting, and building community.

“I’m proud to be a part of this special issue as this generation-defining experience taught me how to be a better teacher, a more effective journalist and how to work around pressing challenges,” says Adrian Ma, an assistant professor at the Toronto Metropolitan University School of Journalism.

Ma and Lindsay Hanna, TMU’s instructional technology and web design specialist, co-authored the resource list “How to create a virtual newsroom,” in which they share digital tools that can replicate the in-person collaborative spirit of a newsroom virtually.

“It’s important to take stock of what was accomplished and what was experimented with through the lens of looking forward,” Ma says. “For better or worse, being plugged into extreme situations is going to be par for the course for the rest of our lives but we are capable.”

Despite facing reporting challenges caused by pandemic disruptions, the ability of students and educators to produce quality journalistic work in virtual newsrooms from coast to coast is a testament to their efforts to engage and connect.

“It feels really good to be a part of this conversation and to have a community of practice across the country to know that we were not alone and shared similar struggles, even if our programs are structured differently,” says Aphrodite Salas, an associate professor in Concordia University’s Department of Journalism and the author of the commentary piece “Getting their mojo back: A solutions approach for first-year journalism students.”

Reflecting on how she adapted her Introduction to Multimedia course during the pandemic, Salas reveals that her first-year students were able to do more comprehensive reporting and dig deeper into stories when they took on solutions journalism frameworks.

“This may seem ambitious at the first-year level as we’re still teaching the skills to be a multimedia journalist, but I was reminded that students are capable of a lot,” Salas says. “To bring that bar higher inspires them to work in a way that allows them to grow. The passion and engagement of these students gives me a lot of hope for the future.”

Nana aba Duncan, an associate professor and Carty Chair in Journalism, Diversity and Inclusion at Carleton University, co-edited this special issue and was the lead producer of the English-language episodes of the Forced Change podcast. Each episode featured roundtable discussions with panelists on topics such as technology and changing course delivery through the pandemic, risks of burnout and oppression fatigue for racialised educators, and trauma-informed reporting.

“Listening to the panelists was affirming as the experiences I had were being mirrored as they talked about their own struggles with understanding the capabilities and capacities of students, as well as considering their mental health and our own,” says Duncan. She describes the multimedia aspects of the journal as “reflective of how we consume media in different ways.” She adds, “We all learn in different ways. If you are someone who learns auditorily, listen to the podcast. If you prefer to learn by reading, you have the articles. By it being a multimedia issue, there are several entry points and the journal is made more accessible.”

Podcast episodes and pieces in the journal point to reimagining journalism education beyond the demands of remote delivery, calling on educators to reflect on care and intersectionality, challenge the field’s settler colonial roots, and engage with the needs and lives of all students.

“I am so inspired by what all my colleagues have done, thought about and brought to the table for this journal. Everything about journalism education changed so quickly and educators were forced to pivot and be flexible, innovative and ready for change that never stopped,” says Audette-Longo. “I would love to revisit these conversations in the years to come.”

This special issue was published by J-Schools Canada and supported by a SSHRC Connection grant and funding from Carleton University’s Teaching and Learning Services, Faculty of Public Affairs, Office of the Vice-President (Research and International) and School of Journalism and Communication. Behind the scenes, peer reviewers volunteered their time and expertise, and students at Carleton and Université du Québec à Montréal contributed to managing day-to-day communications, producing podcast episodes, designing graphics, organizing materials, translating, and producing social media.

Nana Aba credits the completion of this special issue to the “incredible work and efforts” of Audette-Longo. “If not for her vision, this multimedia issue would not have happened and it wouldn’t look the way it does. She has put her heart, time and soul into this and she has some great intentions for how we can learn from such an ‘unprecedented time’,” says Duncan.

Nehaa Bimal