As the head of the Journalism and Television/Digital Media departments at Montclair State University, it’s hard to find someone more passionate about the evolving media industry than Tara George. Last summer, in collaboration with the Center for Cooperative Media, George set out to research the current state of high school journalism programs across New Jersey.
“As a journalism professor, I was curious about the journalism options that exist for students in their high schools before they come to college,” George said. “As head of the journalism program, I also felt that to do my job well I needed to understand the trends in high school journalism in New Jersey, where most of our students come from.”
Through both in-depth qualitative interviews and surveys, George spent countless hours talking to high school newspaper advisors and principals about their school’s journalism programs. The data found that journalism curriculum, unlike that of math or language arts, is highly decentralized and ultimately left up to each individual school to create. Because journalism isn’t a required course, George found that its existence was mostly determined by dedicated faculty members who saw value in the education.
“The biggest surprise was that in the schools where journalism is taught, journalism advisers are reporting that the strongest force preventing students from taking journalism is the pressure to take AP classes instead, leaving no time for electives and non-AP classes like journalism,” George said.
However, this decentralization hasn’t deterred future journalists from enrolling in available courses. “Students still seem to want to take journalism where it’s offered,” George said. “Which is great news.”
The full report and findings can be found online at https://centerforcooperativemedia.org/