Baylor University

Journalism students Landen Ellis, Krista Pirtle
and Morgan Hanley interview Professor
Mia Moody-Ramirez in her home.
(Photo credit: Hannah Mount)

Teaching New Media Skills

Baylor professors incorporate new media use in the classroom

By: Hannah Mount, Public Relations major

Baylor University has always had a strong journalism department, allowing students to major in either public relations or news-editorial. This year they have added on another choice of major, journalism-new media. Our society is rapidly becoming more dependent on the use of technology and social media in order to communicate and present information. It is important for students in the journalism field to become familiar with these tactics and develop the necessary skills to use these media outlets effectively. Along with adding the new media major, Baylor journalism professors are working hard to give students the opportunities to learn these skills.

When asked what lessons she is applying in the classroom, Journalism Professor Marlene Neill replied, "I am making sure that students are equipped with the skills needed for online journalism. It's changed so much. You have to know how to tweet, blog, and edit audio and video. It wasn't that way 10 years ago. It's very important for students to acquire those skills in order to meet the needs of their employers."

This application of new media can be found through the use of Facebook, Twitter and blogging in the journalism courses. Last year Neill, along with her students, organized Baylor University's first ever student-run public relations agency, Baylor Oso Public Relations. The agency has a website featuring student blogging, as well as a Twitter account. Along with basic information on the agency and its clients, the website also displays student work. The Baylor University Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media website features Baylor Oso Public Relations as one of its links to display student work.

"We want to incorporate more multimedia and emphasize more new media projects that our students are doing in class," said Neill. "In particular we have added links to student blogs, and we plan to add links to student projects. Being able to show that we are teaching, and that students are utilizing, the skills that you need for the new media industry."

One of the greatest opportunities offered by the Baylor journalism department is allowing students to work with real clients.

"Yes you're learning the skills at the beginning, but one of the structures of the courses are that you will actually be working on a client project. In the online journalism class, we have four projects that our students are working on for real clients, so the work is not only being used in the classroom, but also by clients in real life," Neill said. These clients are Caritas, The Greater Waco Education Alliance, Youth Connection and The Baylor Journalism Department.

Students can do anything from advertising, freelance design, incorporation of social media and article writing for the clients.

"The work you do for the clients is related to the core elements that the students are learning in the course. Whatever was produced would benefit the student as well as the client, a win win relationship. We wanted to find organizations that could really benefit from students' new media skills. A lot of work was done to find that perfect match when I was looking for nonprofits to work with. You're able to provide a skill that they need and some expertise, and then students are able to gain some real life experience in return."

When Youth Connection Executive Director Carolyn Nichols was asked about her experience working with Baylor students, she said, "John Elizondo, Will Potter, Chris Derrett and Katy McDowall have been helping Youth Connection become more visible and connected with the community through social media and other online outlets. They have redesigned and updated our website, which will help our agency with a much larger social media presence. All four of the students have been most helpful. I have found them to be very capable, pleasant and responsible. I feel they have a good understanding of our agency purpose and programs."

Though the professors are very excited to present these opportunities in the classroom, students have also expressed their excitement about learning skills that incorporate new media and working with clients.

Junior journalism-news editorial major Morgan Hanley said, "I loved the assignment where we had to tweet a live event, it really taught me so much about the professional side of Twitter."

The unique and truly useful opportunities presented to students in the classroom provide them with the skills and confidence they need to make their way into the working world. It's no surprise that the Baylor University Department of Journalism and New Media is in the top five percent of programs nation wide, according to Baylor's ACEJMC accreditation, and its students go on to be successful in all aspects of journalism.