The University of Regina’s School of Journalism is launching a master’s program—the first in the prairie provinces.
By Tamara Baluja, Associate Editor
The University of Regina’s School of Journalism is launching a year-long master’s program—the first in the prairie provinces—with classes planned for Sept. 2015. J-Source interviewed Mitch Diamantopoulos, the head of the journalism school, about whether the Saskatchewan market needs more journalism graduates.
J-Source: Tell us why this is a good time to launch a MJ at the University of Regina.
Mitch Diamantopoulos: Once we launch, this will be the first master’s in journalism program in the prairie provinces. There are quite a few undergraduate programs in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, but they’re all geared at entry-level jobs. Times are changing, and so we need a program that is aimed raising the academic bar, at thinking more deeply about journalism issues. That could be for someone who wants to advance their studies, but the program is also an avenue for someone who has been working in the industry and hit a ceiling, so you want to get some new skills.
J-Source: We often hear the journalism market is saturated, of layoffs and buyouts. Does Canada really need another journalism program?
MD: The idea that the market is saturated for journalists is fair comment in Ontario. But that’s not the case in Saskatchewan, where there is a resource boom. Our graduates are benefitting from that resource boom and they don’t have any problem finding full-time, paid jobs. Previously, you would see students leaving the prairies to go to Eastern Canada so that they can get jobs in those cities. Now, you see the direction changing, and I think more and more, people realize the journalism jobs are here and it’s worthwhile to start with schooling here as well.
J-Source: What makes this program unique?
MD: We do have several signature features. Firstly, we have a partnership with the Indian Communications Arts program at First Nations University and there will be one faculty member cross-appointed to our school as well as FNU. This is a great way for us to be immersed in Aboriginal storytelling. Our students will also have a lot of field experience—13 weeks of internship—as well as focus on long-form journalism, a liberal arts training and a strong premium on democracy and the role of journalism within that. We also will have two ways to join the program—those with field experience or an undergraduate degree can enroll directly into the master’s program, but for those who have a background in other fields, they can do a bridging year learning the fundamentals of journalism.
J-Source: How will the program encourage Aboriginal storytelling?
MD: We encourage our students to take a summer institute at FNU where they can get immersed in Aboriginal affairs. We also have a faculty member who will be cross-appointed, as I mentioned previously. It’s more about having a welcoming environment where students can feel like they belong, see themselves represented in the people around them, the stories they cover.
J-Source: And finally, how many students and faculty will you add in 2015?
MD: We hope to have a class of approximately 15 students and we’ll add 1.5 new positions—a documentary professor and Shannon Avison, who is cross-appointed from FNU.
This interview has been edited and condensed.