Fairfax partners in journalism innovation course

Fairfax Media will join with RMIT University and the Queensland University of Technology to launch a pilot course to help students and educators keep better pace with newsroom innovation.

The “Innovation in Modern Journalism” unit will be trialled at QUT in semester one of 2015 followed by RMIT in the second half of the year.

The course will aim to arm young journalists with the creativity and practical tools to engage audiences and generate revenue, with a focus on digital platforms.

Brisbane Times editor Simon Holt created the course, having begun discussions with journalists and educators 18 months ago.


Course creator and Brisbane Times editor Simon Holt

“The coalface of journalism is changing so quickly – I can go on holiday for six weeks and everything changes,” Mr Holt said.

“The tertiary sector puts programs in place with their students and is good at keeping up academically and understanding, but keeping up with the coalface is very different.

“That’s where we can help – we can share with them our day to day challenges and provide students with an understanding of what tools available can be adapted to a working environment.

“Because it’s a course in innovation, we hope the course we teach in the next six months will be very different in three years’ time.”

Mr Holt said combining academic knowledge with practical newsroom experience was a potent partnership.

Fairfax Media national news director Sean Aylmer said the initiative held the potential for a two-way exchange of knowledge.

“We realise that young journalists in many cases will be the drivers of technology,” Mr Aylmer said. “Their ideas are critical to the success of our business.”

Data experts, designers, product managers, app specialists, social media editors and others from the Fairfax Media network in Australia and New Zealand were approached to share their experiences and expertise.

Mr Holt said the course would put students in front of experts in a number of fields. “There are new jobs emerging in the newsroom. We can put up those experts in fields that, six months ago, weren’t even required and let students chat to them and pick their brains,” he said.

Students were not bound by tradition, or “what a dusty old sub told you 20 years ago”.

“They’re already thinking about SEO and other things that drive people to your stories, not just traditional forms of readership.

“Given the right scope, we hope this course is a licence for students to think creatively when it comes to telling important news stories.”

QUT Head of Discipline, Journalism, Media and Communication, Jason Sternberg said the course would go beyond the “traditional guest lecture” from a working journalist.

“It’s the start of an ongoing experiment in new ways of storytelling,” Dr Sternberg said.

RMIT deputy dean of media associate professor Lisa French said the partnership was a formal extension of a long-held relationship between the RMIT journalism school and Fairfax.

“It means that RMIT journalism students will have a direct line to industry and will be highly visible to this significant employer,” she said, adding it would also be “a significant source of knowledge for journalism educators”.

Following a successful pilot it is hoped the course will become a permanent inclusion in the journalism curriculum at both universities from 2016.

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