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Journalism Isn’t Dying, It’s Evolving: Faculty Revive Program in the Era of Fake News

Jun 28, 2023

Andrea Madison had worked in retail management and hospitality for many years, but something nagged at her. She had always dreamt of becoming a writer. Just before her 30th birthday, Madison decided she was ready to make a change and pursue her life-long passion. She enrolled at DVC as a journalism major. 

“After a few months of concurrent employment and college courses, I found myself facing a decision between my full-time job or full-time academics. With financial aid, I was able to fully focus my energy on my studies,” said Madison.

Madison has truly enjoyed her time at DVC and credits her instructors for developing a competitive and relevant journalism program.

“I’ve been able to sharpen my existing abilities and was given plenty of support and coaching, which allowed me to develop my craft in new and exciting ways. Effective interviewing techniques, feature writing, and experience editing others’ work are all skills that I honed as a DVC journalism student,” said Madison.

Madison will graduate this year, and will then transfer to St. Mary’s College of California to obtain her bachelor’s degree in communications. In addition to the skills she’s learned, she will also bring extensive writing experience to her new campus.

“When I was the editor-in-chief of DVC’s publication, The Inquirer, I met deadlines and brainstormed with staff to hatch and develop story ideas. Witnessing the talents of the student news writers flourish and grow was very fulfilling,” said Madison.

Madison has also written for The Orinda News and CalMatters College Journalism Network. She feels those experiences have allowed her to grow her networking skills and gain insight into how a city operates. 

Madison is aware there is concern for the future of journalism – some newspapers have folded or consolidated, and there is the ongoing battle against misinformation or “fake news,” particularly on social media.

“Fair, accurate and detailed reporting, the kind that offers an outlet to those without a mainstream voice, remains vital to society. Whether it’s a newspaper on the dining room table or a tweet from a news outlet, journalism facilitates change and inspires justice. While social media and the internet have altered the journalism landscape, its importance remains,” said Madison.

Real-world reporting that makes an impact on the local community

Cassandra Shoneru“People don’t realize that while the form of journalism they have may have been most familiar with is fading out, journalism isn’t dying – it’s evolving into new forms,” said Cassandra Shoneru, who is also completing her degree in journalism at DVC.

When Shoneru graduated high school, she knew she wanted to go to college, but wasn’t certain of her career direction. She felt that DVC would enable her to cost-effectively consider different career paths without feeling the pressure to select a major quickly.

“Journalism was something I had always been interested in, but I had other interests as well. Being at DVC allows me to explore all of my options and feel confident in my choice,” said Shoneru.

Shoneru is the current editor-in-chief of The Inquirer, and feels that the experience has really made an impact on her education and future career as a journalist. And like Madison, Shoneru has freelanced for other publications, including The Pioneer and Bay News Rising.

“I was able to make all of those connections through the DVC journalism program. The first time I published something in The Inquirer, an editor from a local publication reached out to me and asked me to freelance for them! Since then, I’ve been able to write for more publications around the Bay Area,” said Shoneru.

Shoneru is especially proud of a story she wrote last year, entitled A Place Where “Everyone is Welcome”: How the Outcast Art Table Created a New Community for the Unhoused in Concord. She visited a park in Concord and interviewed a group of unhoused individuals who had made an art table that enabled them to connect with one another and create art.

“I think that’s when I really realized how important journalism is. It’s so important to give people a platform to share their story,” said Shoneru.

Journalism in transition

Michael Levitin teaches journalism students at DVC.“Over half of the people in the United States get their news and information from social media, which is just an aggregator. It has nothing to do with ethical journalism. In the journalism classes at DVC, we see our job as not just teaching people about what journalism is, but also to get people to understand what it isn’t,” said Mickey Huff, department chair for journalism at DVC.

The DVC journalism program has been undergoing a revitalization process that Huff expects will not only help to boost enrollment, but will also ensure that the program remains relevant in an ever-changing industry.

“What we’ve done is setup a professionally-geared pipeline that provides training in the skills, techniques and news production experience that enables students to leave DVC with substantial knowledge and experience enabling them to get jobs and internships as well as prepare to transfer. We really want to capture students’ interest and fascination to get them to join the profession,” said Michael Levitin, journalism instructor and advisor to The Inquirer at DVC.

Levitin and Huff feel that DVC’s program is uniquely situated to educate and train students in the art and craft of real-world journalism. They note that The Inquirer had been digital only since 2018; however, now it is back in print. Plans for the revitalized program include a recently launched new website, as well as the incorporation of video and podcasting.  

“There are parts of the world where social media has become a critical platform for oppressed populations to report to each other about things that are happening, and our students are directly plugged into this stuff. There is a place for journalism in all these areas,” said Huff.

Levitin understands that today’s students often have a misshaped view of what the news should be, primarily due to the rise of social media and “fake news.”

“We’re trying to claw-back a level of respectability in the profession. We help students rediscover an idealistic view of wanting to tell stories, expose injustices, holding power to account. We want to awaken that hunger,” said Levitin.

Huff likes to remind his students that at the end of the day, they are storytellers.

“But they’re also putting themselves in a privileged position to help other people tell their stories. And that’s really empowering,” said Huff.

For more information, visit the DVC journalism program. 

Bay Area Job Outlook

     Average Starting Wage: $21.13/hour
 Public Relations Representative
     Average Starting Wage: $27.96/hour

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics – May 2021