Public oriented Journalism (25 ECTS)

Course description

7th Semester (pre-graduation) at Windesheim University of Applied Science in Zwolle, NL

Credits: 25 ECTS
Class: 18 weeks

Specific learning outcomes in relation to the public:

  • Students are able to work out and apply a self-developed media strategy.
  • Students can organise interaction with their audience on a relevant theme in society, which leads to informing and/or activation of the audience.
  • Students can use the outcome of a (self-facilitated) public debate in a journalistic production.

Overview

In this major program of one semester, students will explore the power and limitations of involving audience in a variety of ways in their journalistic work. They work for a media partner in this major. For this they form editorial groups of five students. During all phases of their journalistic work, they need to experiment with reaching out to, and involving their audience in the journalistic process.

By this we mean: consulting the audience about topics, angles, research questions, narrative forms, platforms to be used. They can do this indirectly through their own observation via following and filtering public statements on, for example, social media platforms. But more importantly this ‘consulting’ can be done by coming into direct contact with the audience of their media partner, for example by asking questions by physically looking them up and start a conversation, but also through surveys, target group interviews, crowdsourcing, polls or calls on social media. This can also be done, for example, by following and/or actively facilitating the public debate in social media groups, organizing meetings for your audience, or literally visiting for a ‘kitchen table’ conversation or ‘meet-ups’ with a mix group of involved people. They are allowed to go as far as organizing events, exhibition or even performing a play or develop a small game.

Not that they should apply all that is mentioned here. The students will of course decide, together with their editor, and depending on the intended target group which forms and techniques they will use or experiment with. We challenge them to explore the boundaries of what can still be considered journalism. And the end of the course they will need to form their own opinion on what the power and limitations of audience engagement are and whether this is a kind of journalism they want to pursue in their professional career.

Semester structure

To give the students some structure we divided the major into three distinct phases:

  1. Preparation (5 weeks)
  2. Production (10 weeks)
  3. Evaluation (3 weeks)

Timeline semester program

Week 1-5 Preparation phase
Week 1
  • Introduction to audience engagement
  • Introduction to public survey as part of Journalism Studies
  • Form editorial groups and exploring mediapartner
  • Research methods and exploring topic
Week 1-5 Preparation phase
Week 2
  • Theory and discussion about constructieve journalism as an audience engagement approach
  • Introducition to theory of and practise in narrative storytelling
  • Theory about exploring and understanding your audience
  • Theory about finding sources and practise
  • Handed in first plan for audience survey
Week 1-5 Preparation phase
Week 3
  • Guestlecturer: why is audience engagement important and how are media experimenting with the concept
  • How to ask (constructieve) questions during research and preliminary talk with sources
  • Expanding knowledge of narrative storytelling
  • Feedback on plan for audience survey and start audience survey
  • Students work in their groups on research and getting grip on topic, think about ways to get in contact with their target audience. Teachers coaching.
Week 1-5 Preparation phase
Week 4
  • Guestlecturer: journalist working with audience engagement and group discussion/talk about this
  • Presentations of outcome audience survey and discuss what this means for their journalistic approach
  • Expanding knowledge of narrative storytelling
  • Feedback research conducted (what do students know, need to explore more, can they deside on journalistic mean question/focus for their project)
  • Students work in their groups on research and getting grip on topic, think about ways to get in touch with their target audience. Teachers coach.
  • Hand in audience survey portfolio
Week 1-5 Preparation phase
Week 5
  • Guestlecturer: journalist working withcrowdsourcing and group discussion/talk about this
  • Discuss all outcomes (research, first contact audience survey, plans first publication, etc.), teachers coach student groups and help make Plan of Action
  • Students work in their groups on research and getting grip on topic, think about ways to get in contact with their target audience. Teachers coach.
  • Hand in Plan of Action
Week 6-15 Production phase
Duration: 10 weeks
  • Production phase implementing Wheel of Engagement
  • Working on production in close contact with audience and mediapartner
  • Teachers as coach
Week 16-18 Evaluation Phase
Week 16
  • Discussing experiences gained during production phase
  • Debating/discussing advantages and disadvantages of audience engagement
  • Going into requirements for the final groupportfolio (including evaluation survey)
Week 16-18 Evaluation Phase
Week 17
  • Helping students to prepare the final groupportfolio
  • Deadline final groupporfolio (including evaluation survey)
Week 16-18 Evaluation Phase
Week 18
  • Helping students to prepare the final individual portfolio
  • Deadline final individual porfolio

Topics, didactical methods and learning goals

The students form editorial groups of five around a subject provided by a media partner. The students start by thoroughly researching the subject to gain in-depth knowledge about the subject and be able to place it in historical context and see coherence. For this they are educated in research methods. In this phase they will also delve into reasons to involve your target group in your journalistic work and ways to explore, get to know and involve the target group. For this we explore the theory of constructive journalism as an audience-engagement theory. Furthermore, we teach them the theory of ‘the wheel of engagement’. Guest lectures from journalist working with audience engagement show examples of how the work field is implementing it. As part of Journalism Studies, the students conduct an audience survey, to better understand their audience.

In this phase teachers teach the theories and coach the students to bring focus and depth into their research and findings.

This phase ends with a ‘Plan of action’ and a first publication to introduce the topic and start the engagement.

 

Visualisation preparation phase circle

In this phase the students will make and publish journalistic productions in a variety of forms, in which they involve their audience prior, during and after the publication. As a result, they discover the possibilities and pitfalls of the audience engagement approach themselves by doing it (learning by doing). Teachers in this phase have the role as coaches, to help the student to dare to experiment but also in their ongoing research efforts. The students meet on a regular basis their media partner to discuss the process and quality of the productions.

person holding production paper

Preparing flyers to hand out in the street. With the QR-code, people can fill in a short enquiry. (Photo Windesheim/Erik van Schaik)

The students make multiple productions and work towards a ‘Grand Finale’, the closing event.

Workshop Windesheim Students watching meeting on tv

Televized debate with an online audience. (Photo Windesheim/Erik van Schaik)

 

In this final phase the students will research and evaluate the effectiveness of their public oriented approach, as they have carried out in previous weeks. They investigate this, among other things, by means of a public survey. They evaluate what worked, what didn’t. What were the pitfalls. And above all they are asked: what have you learned from it for your future work as a journalist and what does this mean for your vision of audience engagement in journalism?

For this they create a group portfolio with their editorial group and an individual portfolio.