Convergence at CUNY

“At CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism,” Jeff Jarvis writes, “we just told the students that they no longer need to commit to a media track - print, broadcast, or interactive. We believe this is the next step in convergence. All media become one.”

The idea is that the separation of journalistic forms—in education and, by extension, in media more broadly—is increasingly irrelevant. And, more to the point, increasingly inimical. Why enforce distinctions when the trajectory is convergence—when, as Jarvis puts it, “media is becoming singular”? (Notice: not “media are becoming singular.”)

From the day the school started, various faculty members - including, notably, the head of broadcast - wanted to find the way to tear down the walls between the tracks. Now we thought it was time.

So what we’ve really done is simply give students more choice. We still have the same media courses and department. We still have prerequisites for the ultimate course in each medium (you can’t take interactive III without having taken interactive II). But now we will advise students to select courses based on what they want to do professionally as well as what they already know (because many students enter the school proficient in various new media).

In other words, the new approach isn’t a whole-sale shake-up of the specialization system at the core of most journalism—and, more generally, most professional—programs; rather, it’s a shift that, per Jarvis’s telling, will give students more control over their own professional training. A buffet more than a prix fixe menu. And it’s a shift that recognizes the new reality—instructive in every sense—of a profession steeped in tradition: that, as Medill’s Rich Gordon says, “the most important skill we need to teach is change.”

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.