Modern media suffer from the constant external and internal pressures of shareholders, technology, politics, conglomeration and advertising.
As a result, the industry is always changing and insecure for media professionals. So where does this leave prospective journalists?
MURL, the School of Communication and Theater’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab, is the cornerstone of the journalism department’s mission to teach media convergence with an urban focus.
Unveiled in 2003 and located at the Temple University Center City campus, MURL is both a modern newsroom and a class.
Recently renovated, the laboratory is equipped with all the best editing software and hardware, an ultra-matte/green screen system, and a video-camera that allows one to dial-up to various news channels and see what’s going on in the outside world.
Possibly the greatest feature of MURL, however, is not the technology, but that it utilizes the city of Philadelphia as a laboratory for civic journalism.
Each student who takes the course is required to engage investigative research at a Philadelphia location and produce a broadcast package, a newsprint story and an online component for his or her final piece.
“You might consider this a perfect opportunity for students to test-drive their journalism skills and do it in a hands-on, real world setting,” said Thomas Petner, director of MURL.
Students write about personal stories, public affairs, transportation – anything concerning the underreported areas of the city.
This includes issues ranging from parking troubles, the overhaul of outdated urban housing, and the history of the Badlands, to Election Day in Philadelphia.
“With the guidance of MURL’s director, I produced a feature story about two amazing children who are growing up in North Philadelphia,” said 2005 broadcast journalism major Galena Mosovich and current news apprentice at a CBS affiliate in Miami. “My goal was to show how some children are thriving academically, socially and emotionally, despite the dismal backdrop of their neighborhood.”
In the age of journalism where mergers, staff reductions and downsizing are all too prevalent, the skill of multimedia reporting is vital.
Students can no longer silo themselves in a particular media platform and expect to have a job secured for them their entire journalism career.
The modern newsroom is one of convergence. A newsprint student must also learn a proficiency in broadcast journalism, Web journalism, and radio journalism.
The same goes for every other journalism concentration.
More importantly, the incidence of media conglomeration has resulted in a loss of localized reporting and personal reporters.
According to the Columbia Journalism Review, 40 percent of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s newsroom budget was spent covering the suburbs – two times the amount that was spent covering the city and far more than the 5 percent of that went to the national, Washington, D.C., and foreign reports.
Even though newspapers like the Inquirer are subject to critical staff reductions, the industry demands that they use the limited resources available to cover local areas.
And research marketers and corporate investors alike are finding out – big surprise – that people want to know what’s going on right where they are.
MURL addresses both concerns in the changing media industry: media convergence and local reporting.
Instead of negatively anticipating the industry’s changes, MURL is doing something fresh, productive and beneficial in the study of journalism.
For once, it is nice to see to see a college class that translates the classroom into the actual world of professional work for its students while also contributing to a positive change in that line of work.
Erin Cusack can be reached at email@example.com.