Program in Journalism

Academic Unit

Program Information

The Program in Journalism provides an interdisciplinary framework of courses through which students will produce rigorous, verified journalism, developing a strong command of the literary, ethical, analytical, and political dimensions of telling a compelling story in order to have a meaningful impact on public policy.

The program takes an integrative approach across disciplines and divisions, understanding journalism as exemplary of the liberal arts: deeply rooted in the arts and humanities but concerned with questions of public policy, national security, technology, computational science, social and political science, and business and economics.

The program highlights journalism’s function as a public service and raises awareness about the critical role of credible journalism in an informed democracy and of accountability reporting in upholding civil institutions.

Students will learn the practice of reporting and verification and the art of crafting compelling nonfiction narratives in a variety of media. They will learn to write clear and dynamic prose and to communicate complex ideas in ways that can help shape the public conversation.

Admission to the Program

The program is open to students of all majors. Students may apply for the certificate after having completed one journalism course with a grade of B or above. Students will normally apply during sophomore year but no later than the fall of junior year.

Program Requirements

To obtain the certificate, students must complete five courses and an approved field experience and participate a required colloquium.

1. At least one gateway course (200-level) selected from the list below:

  • JRN 200 The Media in America: This seminar will discuss such topics as secrecy, national security and a free press; reputation, privacy and the public's right to know; muckraking and the "establishment" press; spin and manipulation; the rise of blogging; the economic impact of technological change on the news business.
  • JRN 220 The Literature of Fact: This seminar offers a chance to think about and practice different kinds of writing. Students will strive to identify and emulate the best--the smartest, the most vivid, the most humane--in a variety of journalistic genres, from news analysis to arts criticism to foreign correspondence.
  • JRN 240 Creative Non-Fiction: This is a course in factual writing and what has become known as literary non-fiction, emphasizing writing assignments and including several reading assignments from the work of John McPhee and others.

Gateway courses focus on the ethics of journalism, media literacy, and fact-based reporting, developing a common vocabulary and methodology including interviewing, storytelling, and verification skills. Courses are writing-intensive, as students will be required to "do journalism"--to report, write, workshop, and revise.

2. At least two additional journalism seminars with a primary designation of JRN:

These courses are taught by distinguished, practicing journalists. Spaces will be reserved for certificate students.

3. At least two journalism-related courses from an approved list:

This requirement may be filled by any course with a primary JRN designation or by an approved journalism-related course. Additional courses may be approved by the program director.

Both the courses and fieldwork experience (below) may be selected or defined in consultation with an advisor to help define an informal track within the certificate.

Courses must be completed with a grade of B or above to count toward the certificate.

4. Fieldwork Experience:

Fieldwork is defined here as sustained journalistic activity of a minimum of six weeks, involving reporting, interviewing, researching, and writing factual news stories outside the classroom and beyond the University campus. Field experiences might include internships or other positions at major publications, as well as niche news organizations, nonprofit news organizations, new digital ventures, and local and regional news outlets. To fulfill this requirement, field experiences must be approved by the program director.

5. Presentation at the Senior Colloquium:

During the senior year, students will write or produce new journalistic work (writing or multimedia) based on reporting undertaken during a field experience. Students will be asked to discuss their work in the context of challenges facing journalists and developments in the field. They will present this work to peers and a jury of current and former Ferris Professors at an interdisciplinary colloquium offered each academic year.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill all the requirements of the program will receive a certificate of proficiency in journalism studies upon graduation.