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Take 5: What students need to know about new media, political campaigns, and global co-op

07/24/15 - BOSTON, MA. - Jonathan Kaufman, Director of School of Journalism in the College of Arts, Media and Design. Photo by: Matthew Modoono/Northeastern

Earlier this summer, we published a 3Qs with Jonathan Kaufman, the new director of the School of Journalism in the College of Arts, Media and Design. Here, we talk with Kaufman about how he follows the news, what journalism students should know before going on global co-op, and about the 2016 campaign course he’s teaching in the spring.

On Northeastern’s Media Innovation program
“I think Media Innovation is the future. One of my goals is to take what graduate students are learning in our program and infuse that into the undergraduate curriculum, so that when our students go into their co-ops they’re just as fluent in these technologies as our graduate students. In the new media world, you have to know some data visualization, some coding. You don’t need to be an expert, but you must be familiar with them because in the end you’re telling a story. For decades, the traditional way to tell a story was 2,000 words with a photograph. These days, the best way may be 800 words plus a digital video and an interactive game. These are now all elements of storytelling. One of the great things about being a student now is that they live in this digital world, and one of our challenges to them will be asking them what would make you read this story and share it with your friends.”

On the 2016 election and covering political campaigns
“In the spring, I’ll be teaching a course on covering the 2016 campaign. We’ll probably do a field trip to New Hampshire, and it will be a great opportunity for students to see how the campaign is being covered. I think everyone should see a campaign in New Hampshire; it’s an extraordinary experience. In 2008 I covered the Democratic primary with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as well as the general election. Students will see how the candidates are delivering their messages and how the press is covering everything. There are bound to be controversies, there will be surprises, and students will be able to interact with members of the media.”

On following political and campaign coverage
“I think in this day and age, you can tailor the news you read to your own political views and never be exposed to people who challenge you. I think that’s a mistake. The challenge to journalists is to find ways to cross over and reach those people. At The Wall Street Journal, most of the stories I wrote were about race, class, and inequality, and it was exciting to think about how to write about these topics in ways that would be of interest to business readers.

“People have to take responsibility for how they follow the news. If you’re just following news outlets [on the left or on the right], in a sense you’re making a choice about how informed or uninformed you want to be. My argument has always been, ‘I want to hear the best argument on the other side.’ I may disagree with it, but I want to hear what people say.”

On how he follows the news
“I’m probably old school but becoming new school. Initially I go to websites. But in the past couple years I’ve found I’m going more to social media. One thing that’s underappreciated is how much the Internet revolution and media revolution have expanded people’s sources. If you want to know what’s happening in the Middle East, you don’t have to just go to The New York Times. You can read publications out of Israel or out of the Arab world. You can read The Guardian, you can read specialized journals, and you can find blogs. One of the things I’m thrilled to talk about with our students is that they will find very smart people blogging about issues like climate change, the Red Sox, fashion, or ISIS, and this all deepens their world views.”

On what a global co-op student should know
“Students should always be curious and asking questions. But the key to being a good reporter is to not only ask questions but also listen carefully. I think those are good skills for life. When you go on co-op to a different place, you want to use all those reporting skills. It’s important that we’re teaching these skills as well as things like being sensitive to cultural differences and understanding the politics in an office environment.”

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