Alumni Update | Issue Eight 2014
Communications courses for the digital age
By Tomas Telegramma and Jane Russell

There is no denying that we live in a consumer society. We want everything and we want it now… and that includes news.

We are in the midst of an ever-changing media landscape, in which online media is thriving, as audiences search for the most immediate sources of news and the most effective ways to consume it.

The nature of today’s media is such that those working in the industry need to be multi-talented. Journalists, for example, are expected to be competent in producing content for any number of platforms, including social media.

Gemma Wilson
Bachelor of Journalism 2012 graduate, Gemma Wilson (pictured), exemplifies the new face of journalism. She works as a reporter with the network digital team at News Corp in Sydney.

“My main responsibilities in this role are to write current and up-to-date international and national news stories which we give to all the major publications at News Corp — Herald Sun, Adelaide Advertiser, news.com.au and others. They then have the choice of running these stories on their website or not. We also have to ‘build’ a lot of the print journalists’ stories for online and make them suitable for web,” says Gemma.

Print reporters work on rounds, for example the police round or the courts, but the network digital team covers all the national and international news that wouldn’t fall under the banner of a state-based reporter.

In the digital world where people want news as it happens, journalists have to ensure their stories are online as quickly as possible, as well as trying to beat the competition by breaking the news first, Ms Wilson says.

“In any one day I can write about ISIS beheading a journalist to Kim Kardashian changing her hair colour,” she says.

“As an online reporter there is more to our role than just typing the text and hitting ‘publish’. We need to ‘build’ the story for web by adding videos, pictures, links and sometimes even interactive elements such as quizzes. This is definitely where the future of journalism is headed, so it's great to be learning all these skills which I can take with me wherever I go.”

Project Manager for UniSA's School of Communication, International Studies and Languages, Brad Gascoigne, says that to be marketable in such a competitive industry, our graduates need to be skilled in more than one area.

“Across the board, there was very much a clear consensus from industry that broader programs were better for students,” he says.

“Students also need to have strong writing skills.”

The School worked with external market research company, newfocus, to identify the skill gaps in the current communications and media programs and to address these in developing four new programs to be offered in 2015.

“It’s very much a school-wide approach,” says Mr Gascoigne.

“There are also opportunities to integrate more components of social media in some of the new courses.”

“Social media is a growing space.”

Working in the new media industry is all about interaction – having a conversation with your audience and involving them in the reporting process rather than being an unrivalled voice.

The School will offer a Bachelor of Journalism and Professional Writing, a Bachelor of Communication and Media, a revised version of the existing Bachelor of Media Arts and a Bachelor of Arts that allows students to earn a double major, an initiative that is unique to UniSA.  

The programs incorporate the University’s focus on experiential learning while leaving room for technological advancement and offering more flexibility for all students, both current and prospective.

“Everyone will benefit from the new courses. No student is being disadvantaged, current or new,” Mr Gascoigne says.

Program Director of Journalism, Professor Kerry Green, is happy with the way the new Bachelor of Journalism and Professional Writing opens doors into allied professions.

“A narrow focus on journalism alone will no longer be enough for the new media industry and for new audiences. This new program fits people for more than just journalism in that it allows them to move across industries much more fluently,” he says.

“We’re moving with industry. As industry becomes more multi-platformed, we reflect that in the programs.”

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