UC Berkeley to launch undergraduate journalism minor in summer 2016 for students seeking advanced communication skills

UC Berkeley to launch undergraduate journalism minor in summer 2016 for students seeking advanced communication skills

Two intensive six-week summer sessions will focus on information-gathering and exposition using contemporary digital technologies

Published on October 21, 2015

Starting this summer, UC Berkeley students will be able to minor in journalism, the first time since the mid-1960s that Cal has offered an undergraduate journalism degree. The classes will be taught in two six-week sessions at the Graduate School of Journalism, and students will have the option of completing the minor in a single summer or spreading it over consecutive summers.


The summer minor in journalism was developed in partnership with UC Berkeley Summer Sessions, a university-wide division that brings some 16,000 students to campus each year, and seeks to serve undergraduates even if they do not intend to become professional journalists.

“We believe that regardless of their career goals, students will be well-served by a program that equips them with a thorough grounding in today's communicative competencies, so that they can contribute fully to the media operations of any institutions they work in--whether it's their hospital's website, their law firm's social media outreach, or their agency's multimedia presentation to a public hearing,” says Edward Wasserman, dean of the J-School.

Even in the age of ubiquitous smartphones and widespread Twitter use, Wasserman says, students may still have a lot to learn about using media. “While digital facility is second nature to Millennials, many do not know how to shape information into compelling, well-reported narratives,” he says. “The minor in journalism will bring important and valued journalistic skills to a wide audience of students in a variety of disciplines.” Students in the minor will work primarily with their own smartphones.

Journalism instruction was introduced at UC Berkeley in 1937 and became a major in 1941. A decade later a Master of Journalism (MJ) program was added. In 1981, the undergraduate major was discontinued, and emphasis went toward growing the highly successful MJ program.

Since then, the Media Studies program has offered undergraduates an extensive scholarly curriculum on the relationship of media to society, but no classes focused on a news-based practicum comparable to the new journalism minor. The minor will also enable undergraduates who are working as reporters and editors for The Daily Californian and other campus media outlets to deepen and widen their expertise.

Veteran journalist David Thigpen, acting director of undergraduate programs and a lecturer at the J-School, has led the effort to create the minor. A former Time magazine correspondent, Thigpen said he believes the minor will be beneficial to all undergraduates who are interested in polishing their expressive skills. “No matter what your major is, you need to know how to communicate your work to other audiences,” he said. “The better you are at communicating your ideas clearly and in an engaging way, the bigger your audience is going to be.”

While researching the viability of the program and gauging undergraduate interest, Thigpen sat in on classes and asked students which of them would be interested in a journalism minor. “I got a really strong positive response,” Thigpen said. “Twenty-five hands popped up in one class. One student was a nutritional science major, another was a biology major; there was a lot of diversity.” Last spring, Thigpen, Dean Wasserman and Assistant Dean Roia Ferrazares presented a proposal for the minor to the School’s faculty, which approved it unanimously.

The minor curriculum consists of two required classes--J100 Principles of Reporting and Writing, and J110 Introduction to Multimedia--and three electives. The two required core courses will address the basics of expository writing, interviewing and reporting, and the ethics of narrative. Students will also be introduced to reporting through audio, video and still pictures.

The elective courses offered include: J111 Journalism and Social Media, J115 Advanced Multimedia, J120 Investigative Reporting, and J130 Specialized Reporting. Students pursuing the minor will be required to take three of the four offered electives. In J111 Journalism and Social Media, students will learn how to use social media, like Twitter and Facebook, to help them connect with sources, find story ideas, and promote their work. In J115 Advanced Multimedia, students will go in-depth on how to use editing software and tell stories through digital media. In J120 Investigative Reporting, students will learn how to use public records and basic investigative techniques for covering political, civic, and corporate stories. J130 Specialty Reporting will allow students to focus on one of several subject areas (e.g. business, health, arts, etc.).

The summer minor is available to all UC Berkeley undergraduate students. All six undergraduate colleges at UC Berkeley--the College of Chemistry, the College of Engineering, the College of Environmental Design, the College of Letters & Sciences, the College of Natural Resources, and the Haas School of Business--have formally recognized the journalism curriculum as a minor. Students who are not in the minor can still take the summer classes. (The cost of the J-Minor program for UC students is $406/unit. Visiting students pay $480/unit.)


A variation of the curriculum will also be offered as a non-degree Certificate in Journalism for any non-UC Berkeley students who are interested, including those from other UC campuses, junior colleges and abroad.

Bus shelter ads and other campus-wide print ads are already running.

Those interested in signing up can visit: http://summer.berkeley.edu/special-programs/summer-minors/journalism-minor. Enrollment opens in February.

Visit this link for more information about important deadlines: http://summer.berkeley.edu/registration/schedule#deadlines

By Akira Kumamoto ‘17


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