The information age has continued to change exponentially since Western Canada's only graduate school in journalism opened its doors in September 1998. The first 16 graduates to earn a UBC Master of Journalism degree now have the skills to seize some brand new opportunities.
They are among more than 5,600 graduates who will receive degrees in the first Congregation of the millennium at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, May 24-31.
"It's a great time to be graduating with this degree," says Prof. Donna Logan, director of the School of Journalism. "People who will provide the content in the information age are in very high demand. I am confident all our graduates will find work in this fascinating field."
Logan's extensive experience is typical of the school's faculty. It includes senior positions at The Montreal Star and the CBC, most recently as regional director for B.C. and vice-president, Media Accountability, for all of the public broadcaster's services in English, French, radio and television.
She says widespread predictions that newspapers would become anachronisms in new media were fundamentally flawed. Instead they maintain a key role as a database for all media. In fact, newspapers are evolving at the leading edge of global technology. Electronic versions appear daily as the familiar daily is being transformed into virtual TV stations and other incarnations.
"The journalism profession is growing," says Logan. "Here in Canada, a circulation war between the new The National Post and The Globe and Mail continues to create new jobs. So do innovations such as zoned editions, designed to compete with new information services."
Many factors set the UBC journalism graduates apart. They are critical thinkers trained in the fundamentals of researching, reporting and writing for all media and in the day-to-day operation of a newsroom. They are also schooled in contemporary journalistic issues, ethics and responsibilities as well as deadlines, interview techniques and the need for accuracy.
The philosophy of the school is that journalists need superior academic skills as well as excellent journalistic skills. Required courses are one-third academic.
The faculty include visiting lecturer Peter C. Newman, one of Canada's best-known journalists, authors and editors, Assoc. Prof. Stephen Ward, a former Canadian Press foreign correspondent and bureau chief, and a long list of leading journalists who are associated with the school.
Student research has emphasized current journalistic issues, especially the impact of new media on conventional communication.
Seminars, conferences and special lecturers involving the public have a similar focus. Brown bag lunch sessions alone have provided a warehouse of journalistic insight and experience from the world's leading journalists.
"An outstanding success," is how Logan categorizes the first class and the first two years of the school, which is part of the Faculty of Arts and governed by the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
The entrance requirements include superior performance at the baccalaureate level and some in the class will capitalize on their expertise by reporting in specialized areas such as law or science. Others will raise the standards in traditional venues or excel in unimagined areas.
You're only as good as your last story is an old journalism cliché.
"Work terms included Time Magazine, The Hong Kong Standard, wire services and national television networks, newspapers in Vancouver and Regina," reports Logan. "The uniform response from the editors has been rave reviews. We have high expectations."