Journalism to Graduate Its First Multimedia Students

For the first time Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism this year will graduate students trained to work as reporters and editors in the new media.

Forty students participated in an experimental laboratory course in new media and produced JRNY, a prototype original on-line magazine about New York City.

The class of 1995 is graduating at a time when traditional news organizations and publishers are expanding rapidly into on-line publishing.

Often this has meant producing digital versions of already existing publications. Experienced new media journalists are sought not only by news organizations, but by information technology and even entertainment companies venturing into the dissemination of on-line news and information.

Jennifer Pirtle, a member of the School of Journalism class of 1995, and managing editor of JRNY, plans a career in multi-media editing. She cautioned against an unnecessary rush to judgment concerning the new media.

"People are too quick to say this is going to make journalism better or worse," said Pirtle. "It's just another tool. It's not going to negate the need for good journalism and editing. If anything, it's going to make it more important," she said.

Traditionally, the School offers concentrations in print, electronic and magazine journalism. Students in the new media lab did the reporting and editing and learned the technical skills to publish JRNY on the World Wide Web.

The World Wide Web is a small part of the Internet, consisting of a series of linked computers that allow the user to access text, pictures, audio and video. JRNY contains original copy and graphics and was not adapted from a print publication.

"The School is acutely aware of the need to keep pace with changes in the news business," Journalism Dean Joan Konner said. "As the media converge through computer technology, our students must learn to function as journalists in all media--print, picture, graphics, audio and video. That's the future of the field."

Center for New Media

JRNY is an early example of the type of work that will be produced at Columbia as part of the University-wide Center for New Media, a working laboratory for journalists, filmmakers, engineers, scholars, publishers and others to develop new forms of storytelling and multimedia projects.

"JRNY is a fascinating first step of what will be thousands of steps in learning new ways to communicate," said Stephen D. Isaacs, associate dean for academic affairs at the Journalism School and co-chairman, along with Vice Provost Michael Crow, of the Center for New Media.

"The Center for New Media represents the University's entrance into the era of multimedia-based literacy and learning," said Crow.

JRNY uses a subway motif; its title page is designed to look like a New York City subway map, complete with multicolored tracks. Its 11 beats--ranging from race to restaurants--correspond to the subway stops. The reader clicks onto a stop to gain access to that section.

The on-line format allows for the storage and presentation of much more information than traditional print texts, including multiple sidebar stories.

The restaurant beat is a good example of the versatility of the on-line medium. The title page illustration is a menu which appears to be opening as the story comes up on the screen. The main stories are listed as Main Courses and the sidebars are Side Dishes. There is also a section for restaurant reviews and a listing of a variety of ethnic foods and the places in the city they can be found.

Columbia University Record -- May 17, 1995 -- Vol. 20, No. 29