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Seasoned Media Professionals Can Broaden Career Skills at Medill

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June 18, 2009 | by Wendy Leopold
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Experienced media professionals who want to enhance their careers and broaden digital skills now have six specializations to choose from in the Medill School of Journalism’s new master’s degree track, which launches this fall at Northwestern University.

The new track begins with a pilot group of experienced journalists who want to create or run a media enterprise; learn more about marketing, corporate communications or public relations; build their own personal brand as entrepreneurs; or continue working as journalists or media professionals but with expanded skills and a comprehensive view of the field.

“We have a combination of disciplines offered at no other university and internationally renowned faculty who teach them,” said Medill Dean John Lavine. “We’re a journalism school, and a school of integrated marketing communications, and we teach media management.”

“Today’s journalists need and want to know more about tools, technologies, audiences, and business issues than they did just half a generation ago,” said Lavine. “Today, more than ever, they also must have the skills needed to create value for themselves, whether or not they are holding down a ‘traditional’ job at any given point in time.  Journalists must think of themselves as ‘specialists’ and rather than being someone’s employee, they can also be their own brands.”

The degree, which takes nine months to complete, enables students to select from a wide variety of courses and to focus on one or more concentrations:

Media Management: “Running a media company today is about growing the business and planting the seeds for future growth,” said Michael P. Smith, executive director of the Media Management Center at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and Medill. “We want our students to understand the forces that are the catalysts for the dramatic changes in media and then to create strategies and systems to withstand the forces or ride the wave of change. The foundation for media strategy is to understand the experiences that enhance media usage and then to create a media organization where the customer is at the core.”

Digital and Interactive: “This is more than tutorials in Flash or demos of DreamWeaver,” said Owen Youngman, Knight Professor of Digital Strategy.  “It’s learning how to think about what’s driving big change not just in journalism, but in the lives of our audiences. The basics of great writing, clear ethical guidelines and disciplined thinking are still at the core of a Medill education. But graduate students learn to add two-way communication to the mix, then create experiences that leave the audience feeling smarter or better informed or more in control of their surroundings and lives. That’s what Web technology can do for journalists, and is also at the core of Medill.”

Innovation
: “Learning how to innovate might involve working with computer science students to build software that gathers or filters news,” Youngman said. “It might mean using data and technology to expand the definition of ‘marketing’ to include the viral spread of important ideas from one engaged user to another. It could mean learning how to grab a piece of someone's attention span for a really big story when they'd rather focus on one of the two or three other things they're doing at the moment. What students learn and do will help them react when the media landscape changes again, a few months or few years from now.”

Audience Understanding: Smith said: “Across America and, increasingly, across the world we live a media life-style -- from the time we get up in the morning until the time we fall asleep at night, we are surrounded by and use media. It is important to understand how and why and when and where media are used so that we can deliver the right message to the right audience through the right channel for the right device at the right time. Understanding what motivates media usage helps the journalist, advertiser, publicist or manager to deliver a more meaningful or valued message and to engage the consumer. Our classes grow from our own research, teach the skills of how consumers use media, and how to use and develop user-research – these are essential skills today.”

Content Creation
: “In this new multi-media universe, local media can be global and global media can be local,” said Smith. “Also the new media are extremely personal. So the journalist, advertiser or marketer has to think about stories told on a variety of levels. We already know that the rules that govern content in social communities are different from the rules that we teach journalists. So, content creation has to become fluid and targeted at the same time. It is increasingly driven by new devices and younger generations’ inclination for interactivity. It is not just doing a great ad or writing an investigative piece, it is also about creating an environment where readers-users help. Our classes in the content creation track are aimed at enhancing the skills of storytelling for newer media and new audiences.”

Marketing: Smith said: “When I talk with Medill or Kellogg students about becoming a media brand in this digital age, I argue that it necessitates more than understanding the marketing function -- it demands a marketing mindset. For media companies that means creating a customer-centric focus. For journalists, that means also having the skills of the marketer. For the media entrepreneur, that means knowing the relevance and importance of your brand and building from there. We see this in the blogosphere where some brand-name pioneers have followed a clear path -- Know your passion. Create a clear, authoritative, respected voice. Always maintain your independence. Drive traffic, and partner when the opportunity arises with bigger players.”

Medill is accepting applications to the new master’s degree track from candidates with at least seven years of experience and invites them to choose from a broad array of graduate-level classes in journalism, integrated marketing communication (IMC) and media management.

Visit http://www.medill.northwestern.edu/journalism/grad/page.aspx?id=125579 or contact Mike Smith, Media Management Center executive director, at  m-smith3@northwestern.edu or Anne Penway, director of admissions, at a-penway@northwestern.edu.

Applications are available at https://app.applyyourself.com/AYApplicantLogin/ApplicantConnectLogin.asp?id=nwu-jour.
Topics: People