Over the last several years, the Rutgers University–Newark Journalism program has been expanding at a clip. Enrollment has surged, additional faculty have been hired, course offerings have multiplied and diversified, and new facilities have come online to keep up with rapid changes in the industry, ensuring that students are ready to hit the ground running when they graduate and embark on their careers.
This fall the program has taken another big step forward by adding the Newsmakers Lecture Series, bringing veteran journalists from major news outlets to campus for panel discussions moderated by Professor Robin Gaby Fisher, Director of the Journalism Program, followed by Q&A sessions with students.
The series is the brainchild of Fisher, who has overseen this expansion since taking over as Journalism program director in 2011.
“Not only are these panels great for our students, but they’re open to everyone on campus and in the community who is interested in the news and the people who are ‘the media’," Fisher said. “By inviting reputable people from the industry, we get a real picture of how journalism works and a glimpse of the people who bring us the news.”
Last week Fisher held the second panel in the Bradley Hall Theater (3rd floor), featuring Michael Siconolfi, Investigations Editor at the Wall Street Journal, Michael Rothfeld, former Investigations Reporter at WSJ and now with The New York Times, and retired WSJ Editor and news executive James Pensiero. They talked about the state of journalism today, fake news, and the challenges of covering the Trump administration.
By inviting reputable people from the industry, we get a real picture of how journalism works and a glimpse of the people who bring us the news.
The series kicked off in September with Joshua Hoyos, an assignment editor for ABC News who graduated from RU-N in 2014 with a major in Political Science and minor in Journalism. Hoyos met David Sloan (NCAS ’76), an Emmy Award–winning executive producer at ABC News, as a student and began interning at Good Morning America and World News Tonight With Diane Sawyer during his sophomore and junior years. He became a full-time staffer for Good Morning America his final summer and semester at RU-N and moved to ABC’s news desk in 2014, where’s he risen to the ranks of his current position. As a young alumnus whom current students can relate to, Hoyos was a big hit, according to Fisher, as was the three-person panel last week.
“Already, we've noticed how rich an experience these events have been for our students,” Fisher said.
The series is one of a long line of changes RU-N’s Journalism program has made since Fisher arrived, back when there were just 38 students and five courses, many of those given every other semester, along with outdated equipment and software. She began by hiring practicing journalists as part-time lecturers and starting the student-run Scarlet Magazine. She continued by upgrading the department’s facilities.
In 2012 Sloan, the Executive Producer at ABC News, decided to give back to his alma mater with a $10K gift—plus a match from ABC’s parent company, Disney, for a total of $20K—to create a new digital-journalism lab. The state-of-the-art room has enabled the department to offer multimedia journalism courses so students can learn to tell stories with words, audio and video, and develop podcasts. That effort is led by veteran journalist David Bergeland and group of adjuncts who run the multimedia side
The following year Sloan and Disney gave a similar gift for a cutting-edge newsroom-classroom equipped with the new Apple computers and multimedia software, data ports, a projector and screen, upgraded electrical system, printers and scanners, large LED TV screen and modern sound system.
In 2015, the program began producing a podcast series called "From Where I Stand," which was featured in the Newest Americans Project’s digital magazine and has since been shown in many Newark schools. The next year Bergeland designed a new journalism website featuring the program and student work.
In 2017 students in Fisher’s Newsroom Workshop course launched a digital magazine called NewAnce, which covers Newark’s arts and culture scene. Last semester they added Instagramable Newark to the magazine, featuring student photos from around the city. NewAnce has since become a partner at Express Newark.
These numerous improvements have resulted in a surge in enrollment and course offerings: The program now boasts 150 Journalism majors and minors, along with 12 courses, including photojournalism and immigration reporting, sub-disciplines that were added this year.
Meanwhile, Fisher is excited by what lies ahead for the Newsmakers series and is currently is putting together a panel of nationally recognized science journalists.
“Especially in this era of continuous assaults on journalism and social media and fake news, we thought it was important for our students, and everyone else who's interested, to meet with legitimate journalists who are doing the great work of bringing us the news,” said Fisher. “And we’ve been fortunate enough to have journalists who are passionate enough about the craft and sharing what they do that they have agreed to do this. And they’re doing it for free.”
Top photo (L to R): Michael Rothfeld, James Pensiero and Michael Siconolfi