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Mercer’s $5.6 Million Journalism Experiment Is Aimed To Partner Students with Local Media

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One of America’s oldest and most reputable institutions of higher education, Mercer University decided to venture upon a fresh journalistic experiment. Starting this fall this liberal-arts school is launching a new $5.6 million project aimed to combine the university’s journalism programs with the professional competence of the Telegraph newspaper and Georgia Public Radio station by inviting those to operate on the college campus.

The initiative is designed to encourage young people to pursue careers in news gathering, and the close collaboration with the news industry professionals will help to set the right role models for students.

Experienced journalists along with radio reporters will work in a new 12,000-square foot journalism center, closely watched by the college students, who are expected to assist them by doing the drudgery of gathering information and running errands. In this way the university officials expect journalists-to-be to learn from their more accomplished colleagues and get invaluable hands-on experience.

To some extent it was a desperate measure intended to help the struggling local news industry to stay afloat. The effectiveness of such model of cooperation can be seen through the example of the medical residency model, which provides medical college students as well as pharmacy and physical therapy school graduates with the opportunity to work in hospitals under the supervision of licensed doctors.

This is not the first attempt to embrace such effective model of college-local media company collaboration across the country. A few colleges in Ohio and Florida applied this model joining their forces with radio stations and newspapers. However the Mercer’s initiative is quite unique for it is the first such venture featuring a school, an FM station and a newspaper simultaneously.

Even before it was officially launched on Friday, September 28, there had been some concerns as to whether or not the location of the center would influence the quality of its work (the newspaper office is housed just above the student dorm, which is known for its wild dance parties). The newspaper editors are also anxious about the lack of hard skills in their future interns and the hardships, which will occur, while working with rather inexperienced staff.

The location for something as daring could not be better, for Macon – a 91,000-resident community – has everything it takes to provide good news: there are enough political worries and economic issues to occupy ambitious future journalists.

Macon has long attracted news media professionals from around the U.S., who choose to move to the city lured by its numerous reporting and professional-development opportunities and a comparatively low cost of living.

Both mass media workers and college professors believe that the future of journalism is directly connected to the quality of journalism education, thus the better training is and the more hands-on experience students have, the brighter this future will be.

 

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