Journalism center adapts to changing media landscape
SF State's Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism (CIIJ) is broadening its focus to better serve students preparing for a rapidly changing media world.
Founded two decades ago to promote diversity in the newsroom, the center is now turning its attention to media entrepreneurship, in recognition that the field of journalism is moving away from large, centralized outlets and toward more freelance and independent reporting. The changes reflect the reality of the job market students find themselves in after they graduate, said Associate Professor of Journalism and CIIJ Director Rachele Kanigel.
"It used to be our students would get their first job at a small newspaper or magazine or TV station and then move up to a bigger one and then a bigger one," she said. "That's not the case so much any more. A lot of our graduates now go right into freelancing or start their own publications or work for start-ups. It's vital that we prepare for this new economy by teaching small business skills and instilling in our students an entrepreneurial mindset."
The center's physical layout has also been rearranged so it can serve as a career center and lounge for students, a type of space the Journalism Department did not previously have, Kanigel said.
The field of journalism has undergone a seismic shift in recent years. Large, traditional news organizations, such as daily newspapers, have shed substantial portions of their staff, leaving fewer internship or job opportunities for journalism students. At the same time, the number of smaller, Internet-based news outlets such as blogs has grown, including some started by SF State alumni. For example, Kanigel said, one former student created a website dedicated to San Francisco prep sports, while others have started small magazines.
"We want to encourage students to innovate, and we want to give them the skills they need to do so," she said.
CIIJ hosts guest speakers from a variety of media enterprises to share their expertise and offer career advice. Speakers during the spring semester included a freelance photographer, a freelance writer, the founders of a media platform that connects publishers with freelancers and the founder of a publishing company. The center held a conference on freelancing in May, in partnership with the Pacific Media Workers Guild freelancers unit. Kanigel hopes CIIJ can eventually provide "microgrants" to students that can serve as seed money for their own media ventures.
Students can also drop by the center for traditional career planning services such as job searching and resume advice. At the end of February, Kanigel announced that CIIJ would offer free one-on-one career counseling sessions to all journalism students.
"From the very first day career counseling was available, we had students come in for help with resumes and cover letters, internships and job searches," Kanigel said. "It became clear this was an important unmet need."
Despite the change in focus, Kanigel said the center will continue to promote diversity by including women and minority media entrepreneurs in its guest speaker series.
"Diversity has always been at the core of CIIJ, and we want to keep it there," Kanigel said.