Emerging Tech

6 tech-savvy journalism schools training the storytellers of the future

Jan 9, 2018


Journalism is one of the most prominent fields where technology is shaping the workplace, the workforce, and the future of the industry. Storytelling as a whole is evolving as new technologies are constantly introduced to help us to conceive of, investigate, develop, and publish stories across many platforms and mediums. And as storytelling evolves, educational programs that train up and coming generations of new young journalists must prepare their students for an increasingly tech-centric landscape.

We recently hosted an Artificial Intelligence workshop for Columbia University students in collaboration with the AP and Automated Insights. Through this initial workshop and future programs of its kind, Wibbitz is dedicated to helping shape the future of storytelling by encouraging ongoing conversations with the students we reach. As students test out our platform, we will incorporate their feedback into coming iterations and updates so that the Wibbitz tool can continue to provide value for the storytellers of the future.

Many renowned universities are already incorporating new technologies into their fundamental approach to teaching journalism. Preparing young journalists for the tech-savvy newsrooms of the future requires an education that integrates tech from data tools and digital techniques to artificial intelligence and machine learning. We rounded up a selection of institutions that are leveraging new technologies to empower and equip their students for the future of journalism.

1. Columbia University

Columbia University’s School of Journalism has integrated many different entries to the new digital landscape into its program offerings. The school’s specifically dedicated multimedia journalism track for undergraduates focuses on using video, audio, photo, and mobile tools for producing and publishing journalism in the digital age. Columbia also offers a Masters of Science degree program in Data Journalism, stating as its mission that “journalism in the 21st century involves finding, collecting and analyzing data for storytelling, presentation and investigative reporting.”

The Tow Center for Digital Journalism was established in 2010 as a research and development lab complementing and supporting Columbia’s School of Journalism programs. By investigating and researching the ways technology is changing the field of journalism, the Tow Center aims to provide the skills and the knowledge that will lead journalism’s future, both within Columbia’s student and faculty body and as a contribution to the profession more generally. And in addition to empowering newsmakers and journalists, the Tow Center is also dedicated to investigating the public’s demands for verification and reliability from their news sources in today’s fraught media climate.

2. University of Missouri

The University of Missouri is home to the country’s first dedicated School of Journalism. Since its founding in 1908, MU’s School of Journalism has evolved to incorporate new technologies and the increasingly digital ways we find, read, and share news. Newly introduced majors in the Journalism department include an Emerging Media program that introduces students to the latest tools available to professional journalists, and a Convergence Journalism program that emphasizes mixed media newsmaking with two or more storytelling mediums intertwined to create stronger, more powerful news stories.

There are also multiple research labs and foundations working at the University of Missouri to spark innovation and excellence as journalism and technology develop in tandem. The first is the Reynolds Journalism Institute, which works to develop, test, and demonstrate new technologies in journalism, advertising, and more. The RJI is also home to MU’s Futures Lab, where students, researchers, and faculty members subject those emerging technologies to real-world testing and use them to develop working prototypes of groundbreaking innovations and inventions.

3. Northwestern University

With one of the most renowned journalism schools in the country, it’s no surprise that Northwestern is a leader in tech-savvy journalism programs. In fact, Medill’s full official name as Northwestern’s School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications immediately identifies its mission as much more than just a J-School. Northwestern takes a clear stance that the media landscape is rapidly changing and that a strong understanding of new technologies is crucial for the future of the profession and the success of Northwestern’s journalism students. Within Medill, two generalized branches of study help students prioritize and anchor their focus in either journalism or in integrated marketing communications.

Through its undergraduate, graduate, and even pre-college programs, Medill aims to support students in “finding new ways to understand audiences… not only thriving in this exciting new landscape but also helping to shape it.” Although it’s safe to say integrating technological innovations seeps into the foundation of Medill’s approach overall, this commitment to the tech-powered future of media and journalism is exemplified in specific courses like Media Economics and Technology in the Integrated Marketing Communications master’s program, and graduate specializations in Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Media Strategy and Leadership, to name a few.

4. University of Nebraska-Lincoln

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications offers students a number of opportunities to specialize in future-focused, tech-powered journalism techniques. UNL’s undergraduate journalism major offers specialization tracks in data journalism and multimedia journalism, for example. And much like Northwestern, UNL incorporates related tracks of study like public relations and advertising into its more general mass communications track. Plenty of UNL students are using their College of Journalism experience to build and launch real world applications of journalistic technologies, both for their own passions and in the professional workforce.

One of the most unique aspects of UNL’s journalism department is the Drone Journalism Lab, founded in 2011 by one of the university’s own professors. The research lab’s mission is to investigate, research, and test the possibilities of drone piloting and UAVs in the field of journalism. By tackling regulatory and legal issues of drone usage in addition to debating more theoretical and ethical topics, the DJL is working to build and design a sustainable future for drone usage in reporting.

5. City University of New York

Technology is centered at the very heart of the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism. Acknowledging the effects of the rapidly changing tech world on the field of journalism, CUNY’s J-School mission is to equip “the next generation of journalists with the tools to find stories and tell them effectively using video, print, documentary, photography, audio, data, and virtual reality.” As one of the only journalism schools on our list to list specific technologies like VR and AR as part of their graduate and undergraduate program descriptions, CUNY clearly puts itself ahead of the curve in equipping journalism students for the future.

City University of New York’s graduate programs also incorporate a multimedia approach and an eye on the business of journalism in today’s digital landscape into the degrees on offer. Graduate degrees include an Advanced Certificate or a Masters degree in Entrepreneurial Journalism, for example. As a whole, the CUNY J-School attributes its digital-first, tech-savvy approach to journalism education to the program’s status as something of a new kid on the block. Founded in 2006, the public university’s mission focuses on supporting an extremely diverse body of students who are as much digital natives as the department is itself.

6. Stanford University

In Stanford University’s Department of Communication, the journalism program factors into a wider approach to education around the way we make and consume information in the world today. As a whole, the department is dedicated to studying “the ways that communication techniques and technologies shape who we are, how we govern ourselves, and what kinds of cultures we inhabit.” With undergraduate specialties including Media Psychology and Digital Media Studies alongside a more traditional Journalism track, Stanford allows for many entry points into this investigation for how journalism and technology influence each other.

But that’s not to say that the university shies away from the realities of the industry today. The Stanford undergraduate program even includes a specific elective course called “Disrupting the news: how technology is transforming the media.” Meanwhile, Stanford’s graduate program leads to an MA degree in Journalism and takes a strong stance on combining the enduring power of journalism and the importance of storytelling with the realities of our data-filled digital world. Stanford and Silicon Valley have long maintained an interdependent relationship, and the graduate journalism’s approach to revolutionizing “the way stories are discovered, told, and transmitted” is a perfect example of that symbiosis.