In terms of program objectives, reporting on the environment requires an understanding of science, economics, human values, and an ability to cover a contentious subject with accuracy, fairness, and balance. The environmental journalism major is designed to provide this understanding.
The first objective is to provide undergraduates with an academic foundation. To that end, prospective Huxley students complete 100-level courses in chemistry and biology, take an additional laboratory course in physics or geology, and take basic math, economics, political science, and journalism courses.
The second objective is to prepare them to understand environmental issues. Majors take upper-division Huxley courses in ecological processes, applied environmental science, and select electives among environmental pollution, environmental systems, fundamentals of ecology, oceanography, the natural history of the Pacific Northwest, environmental toxicology, water quality, and wastewater treatment.
The third objective is to teach them journalistic techniques and ethics. Students take eight academic courses in the Journalism Department on reporting, news writing, media law, and the mass media, plus at least one quarter on each of three student publications: the Western Front newspaper, Klipsun Magazine, and The Planet magazine.
The fourth objective is to bring skills together in ‘capstone’ courses: environmental journalism, and The Planet. Here the skills they have acquired are applied to covering and writing about environmental issues.
At the conclusion of their course of study, students should be able to:
In terms of program outcomes, the success or failure of the environmental journalism program is in part on public display in published student work in The Planet, Klipsun, and the Western Front. Additionally, their knowledge and thinking skills are tested by their upper-division writing courses: student essays are a clear indication of how successful they are in effectively using what they have been taught. Other ways in which the Environmental Journalism program can measure its success in meeting its objectives:
In terms of program evaluation, assessment, and possible improvements, the program needs to address basic writing skills, coordination in curriculum planning with the Journalism department, and development of new courses such as an “environmental politics” course. Specifically, Professor Bill Dietrich (the only permanent faculty in the program, who has a .5FTE position) notes, “Some students come to upper-level courses still struggling with journalism basics such as punctuation, proper attribution, or knowledge of AP Style. Ideally, they would not graduate without the foundation skills to satisfy any city editor. An emphasis on these skills in 200 and 300-level journalism courses could help. I also want to slightly modify ESTU 480 and 481, The Planet and ‘Environmental Journalism,’ to reinforce these skills.”
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