Teamwork for Tomorrow – How Collaboration and Innovation Has Changed the Journalism Program at DC

Written by Brian Legree - School of Media, Art & Design

Maybe you have wandered through The Pit and seen our shingle: ‘The Chronicle Newsroom’ and wondered, what – exactly - happens in there?

The Chronicle Newsroom is a working lab for the Journalism – Mass Media program.

What does that mean?

Since 2018, we have used the Chronicle Newsroom as a base to revamp our program delivery. In some cases, faculty members team-teach courses. We added a third year to our program and grew curriculum, including a course around reporting on Indigenous issues.

Our space functions as a classroom during mornings and then turns into a ‘newsroom’ the remainder of the time for students to chase and produce stories. Faculty are on hand full-time to coordinate coverage and edit student work face-to-face. The students know the deadline for their work is ‘now’, like it is in the actual news business.

It sounds relatively simple, but there are more layers to the story.

The Journalism – Mass Media program is taught by three full-time faculty: Danielle Harder, Teresa Goff and Brian Legree.

Experiential learning has been part of our model for more than 40 years, most notably through the Chronicle newspaper, but we have responded, as required, to the digital era and social media demands in step with the transformation of the news business.

Effectively, we have used a say ‘yes’ to opportunities, followed by a ‘trial and tweak’ approach, to grow the program and student experience both locally and globally.

How does it help students?

They learn all aspects of the business, from driving traffic to our website, to creating a broadcast show through Riot Radio, to multi-platform storytelling through Esri story maps.

Senior journalism students produce stories for all these platforms and have had success at it, most notably by getting jobs, but also by winning numerous Ontario Community Newspaper Association awards.

Student experiences are supported through the use of real-world software applications so they can produce on content management systems for a variety of platforms.

However, benefits in addition to journalism are accrued through student development of ‘soft’ skills through their work in several collaborative efforts.

These include:

  • involvement in the City Idea Lab/Teaching City, allowing students access to city officials to tell stories about ongoing urban challenges;
  • effective use of Durham’s Global Class featuring experts and student input from around the world;
  • Faculty-Led Classroom(s) Abroad in Guatemala (one in the fall and another Feb. 17-27);
  • shutting down classes for a week and engaging students in all three years of our program with story materials gathered in Guatemala (and prior to that, materials thered in other journalism trips to Kenya, Peru and the Caribbean);
  • a collaboration with the Ogemawahj Tribal Council featuring workshops in which journalism students teach media skills to Indigenous students at both Rama and Scugog Island;
  • teaming journalism students with their counterparts in the Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) and Physiotherapy Assistant (PTA) programs to collaborate on an OTA/PTA newsletter

The result?

Students get exposure to real-world journalism and mass media experiences and their entire body of published work translates proudly to their portfolios.

And we are pleased to continue to grow the program, introducing a four-year joint diploma-degree program with Trent University in Durham starting in September.

Along with experienced and valued contract faculty members Kenyon Wallace (Toronto Star), Manjula Selvarajah (CBC), Joanne MacDonald (CTV, retired), Daniel Williams, Brandon Carson, Anne-Marie Jackson, Julie Pigeon and John Cooper, the Working Newsroom continues to grow as the program team applies its ‘trial and tweak’ approach to add to both the teaching and learning experience.

How does it happen?

It may sound like an echo of the DC’s motto, but it really is faculty members working together to ensure the student experience comes first.

We acknowledge the program is not perfect, but with grads working for notable organizations like the New York Times, Toronto Star, CBC, CTV and Global, along with serving communities in newsrooms across Canada, we take pride in its effectiveness.

Want to know more? Drop by the newsroom (classroom B138) and say hello.