At New York University, we believe that journalism has a serious public mission, and can make a difference in the world. We want to educate those who agree. Opportunities abound in the media world, but the opportunity to do compelling work that informs, engages and matters to the societies in which we live—this is what drives our faculty, motivates our students, and shapes our basic approach.
Great journalism has always come from the great cities of the globe, and we believe that the city of New York is the best place to learn to be great. Here is where power and wealth concentrate, news and culture originate. New York, of course, is a news center and media capital without rival, headquarters for the national networks, newspapers, magazines and major publishers. But it is also a huge metropolis and more than ever an international city, teeming with immigrants, global actors and, naturally, compelling stories.
Surrounded by Manhattan’s Greenwich Village neighborhood, the Institute immerses students in the richness and vitality of the city, while attracting to campus many of the leaders and thinkers in the journalism profession. New York is our great classroom, and our inspiration. The first lesson we offer students is to tap into it, with our help.
NYU students study as interns in almost every major news organization in the city. Their testimony tells us how valuable this experience is. They often graduate to jobs in newspapers, magazines, broadcast outlets and online operations headquartered in New York, though some choose to go elsewhere. And every day, students move outward from the classroom to the city, on assignments that take them all over town.
The full-time faculty is itself of national stature in the journalism world. As writers, reporters, producers and critics, NYU professors continue to practice the journalism they teach and preach, holding the profession to its highest standards of public service and intellectual weight. Our part-time faculty of teaching professionals includes working journalists from all the major news media, who share their wealth of experience and a commitment to craft. Most have other jobs, but they teach with us because they want to encourage and influence the young people who will eventually replace them.
Through its tracks, concentrations and programs, the Institute prepares students for reporting and writing in every medium and in every stylistic form. Each area pairs accomplished faculty who have worked in the field with students who seek practical instruction and intellectual depth.
Coursework begins with the basic skills of reporting, writing and research, but simultaneously students are taught what journalism at its best can be—and what it should accomplish in a free and democratic society. They’re encouraged to publish their work, with assignments, internships and online projects geared to that end. And they are immersed in a tradition of excellence that extends over three centuries.
One part of that tradition commands the journalist to act ethically and in pursuit of truth. Another part protects the press under the umbrella of First Amendment law. A third strand in that tradition is the long history of journalism and its achievements and struggles. A fourth is the record of great work, the outstanding literature of journalism, which teaches by example. Ethics, law, history, the literature: these lend depth and direction to the practical training the program offers.
Housed within the Arts and Sciences core of a leading university, the Institute treats journalism as an essential strand in the liberal arts tradition, and a critical factor in public culture. But we also recognize that news these days is a business. When our graduates enter that business, we expect them not to “go with the flow” but to improve and enliven it.
Serious journalism begins with an ideal of public service, a commitment to truth, accuracy and fairness, and a belief that democracy can work if people know what is happening in their world. (It’s also supposed to be fun.) Those who find this their calling will find encouragement, support, and an endless amount to learn at NYU. Our graduates are able to work anywhere their talents take them, and they do. Students come here to gain competence in the journalist’s craft, but also the tools for making it better than it is. And those two things are the essence of what we teach.
We do not want to detach journalism from the rest of what happens at a great university. And neither should you, if you decide to enroll here. There is a deep continuity, we think, between an education in journalism and the larger study of history, politics, culture, science, literature, economics, modern society and moral philosophy. Thus we require our undergraduates to declare a double major in a subject of their own choosing from among the academic programs offered by the College of Arts and Sciences. At the graduate level we seek out students who are broadly educated, who know something about the world beyond what the news may tell of it.
The Arthur L. Carter Institute, with its place in the Faculty of Arts and Science, is dedicated to public knowledge, public information and public debate. We have a key role on campus in spotlighting current controversies, especially where they involve the news media. We expect those who study with us to keep a close watch on events unfolding in the city, nation and world. It goes without saying that a journalism student should be well-informed, have opinions on big things, and care about the public world. But there is a difference between the admirably well informed and the truly educated journalist.
If you’re a feature reporter who has read the great novelists of the world and absorbed their portrayal of human character; or an editor at a business magazine who has delved deeply into the nature of modern capitalism; or a foreign correspondent for a television network who can see with the eye of an anthropologist, you are going to be better at your job than a colleague armed with the same skills in journalism, but lacking this kind of sophisticated knowledge gotten elsewhere. Here is what we mean, then, by the educated journalist. Become one and you will prosper, not only by what you do with an assignment, but in what you know before the assignment is given.
Learning by Doing
One of the best ways to gain competence in journalism is simply to start doing it. Everyone knows there are limits to what classroom instruction can accomplish, and this is why we urge students to begin building a body of published (or broadcast) work alongside their courses, or as part of the course itself. Multimedia skills training is melded seamlessly into the curriculum. Our most successful students don’t wait for their diplomas to arrive before they begin “doing it.” They start teaching themselves by finding stories, getting assignments, dealing with editors and other gatekeepers, building up a record of accomplishments.
Internships are one opportunity to add to a student’s body of finished work. But in a huge publishing and media environment like New York there are many others—freelance assignments, stringer positions, part-time employment and general hustling. Increasingly, the Institute has become a publisher and distributor of its student’s best work, through ongoing projects and publications in “Byline” on the Web.
In 2001, NYU Journalism assumed administrative oversight of the Washington Square News, the campus newspaper at NYU. The purpose was not to gain editorial control; that remains with student editors, who operate independently (as they always have). Rather, the faculty’s interest is in strengthening the newspaper’s franchise, recruiting the strongest possible staff, improving its Web presence and print design, while ensuring continuity and financial stability.
We also hope to challenge the paper to become an even better proving ground for young journalists with talent. Students are urged to make the Washington Square News a part of their education. Joining the staff is, of course, completely voluntary, and there is no requirement that staffers be journalism majors.