Anne McNeilly teaching a class.

Anne McNeilly teaching a class.

By Latoya Powell (RSJ ’21)

Ryerson University’s News Reporting Workshop (JRN304) has gone through several changes in the past five academic years. From print to podcasting, here’s a closer look at some of the changes that have occurred.

Until 2015, Ryerson’s third-year journalism program contained several separate workshop courses including: Reporting for Newspaper Workshop (JRN304 print); Digital Reporting Workshop (JRN305 television); and Reporting for Radio Workshop (JRN306 radio). Students could take a variety of these six-hour workshop courses.

But in 2017, the school decided “to give students in third-year workshop courses the opportunity to develop a stronger relationship at the Ryersonian,” which involved integrating a few of the courses, said Janice Neil, Ryerson School of Journalism’s Chair.  The Ryersonian is a print, online and broadcast news publication put out by the School’s fourth-year undergraduate and second-year graduate students.

Third-year students in the new integrated course could become familiar with the operations of a newsroom, practice meeting deadlines and gain experience in pitching stories by partnering with the Ryersonian, Neil said.

“The (media) platforms have converged. You have to at least  know how to use all the platforms to do your job effectively now as a journalist,” said Anne McNeilly, an associate professor who has been teaching for more than 10  years.

McNeilly and Gavin Adamson, who was the RSJ’s Undergraduate Program Director, integrated the News Reporting Workshop with the Digital Reporting Workshop. They scheduled the two formerly separate courses as one so that they ran all day for two consecutive days.

A maximum of 20 students had the option of taking JRN304 along with JRN305 during the same term, turning six-hour classes into a 12-hour, usually longer, workshop. Adamson and McNeilly organized the two courses so that the assignments would complement both classes.

“That was extremely successful,” said Adamson, who scheduled students to rotate through a variety of positions and work as though the classroom were a live newsroom.

The students were enthusiastic because they were “happy about the course design,” and the opportunity to rotate through different jobs each week that included photographer, videographer and social media editor, as well as reporter,  Adamson said.

Spencer Turcotte, who took those integrated courses, said he felt he had accomplished a lot.

“I came out with more bylines, not just for written pieces, but for multimedia and video content as well,” he said.

Adamson and McNeilly  also wanted students to have the opportunity to be published in the Ryersonian.

“We got a good sense of what the editors and instructors were looking for at the ‘Sonian and what worked versus what didn’t,” said Turcotte (RSJ’19), who is now a Multimedia Journalist at CTV News Kitchener.

The success of Adamson and McNeilly’s course encouraged Neil, who was teaching JRN306, and Dan Westell, an instructor for JRN304,  to integrate their courses for the 2018-2019 academic year.

“We were wingin’ it,” said Westell, an experienced journalist, who first  taught JRN304 when it was called Reporting for Newspaper.

Neil and Westell also met success, particularly in the first half of the semester, after collaborating and synchronizing their assignments so that students could create stories on a topic for both audio and print.

“I thought it was a very educational in terms of showing students how the same topic can come together in media very explicitly,” Westell said.

During the second half of the semester, the two courses diverged somewhat due to the demands required by Neil’s  weekly radio newscast assignments.

The evolution of the program, however,  is a good demonstration of the Journalism School’s ability to adapt to industry needs, McNeilly said. “I think the school isn’t afraid to be innovative and to experiment.”