Here are the highlights from Lavine’s talk on Monday. Click for our liveblog.
On getting shafted
On being a junior
On whether the graduate program is half-baked
On a possible name change
On how the NU faculty criticized the lack of faculty governance at Medill
7:58 – Lavine’s getting ready to address students gathered in the auditorium in Fisk. He’s chatting with a few students, and about 30-40 people are here so far. There is speculation that more will trickle in as the Valerie Plame speech @ Tech ends.
8:06 – HERE IT GOES. An introduction of the reasons for the forum, and a list of Lavine’s professional positions and the current programs at Medill.
8:11 – “I have one question for you. We are in the middle of a change we have been hearing about in so many ways…I am interested in what is working… If you have any suggestions to go with them, that would be useful,” Lavine said.
POOR VIDEO EQUIPMENT
8:15 – Q: “One of the primary things I’m hearing… is the lack of good technology, working technology that’s state-of-the-art…. Can Medill afford better cameras?”
Lavine: We do have some cameras for students to use, and many students have their own equipment.
Q: For our documentary class, “the cameras are great but the mics are terrible and broke after the third week. NNN has had significant problems obtaining quality cameras, and we feel like corners have been cut in terms of what we’re provided with.”
Lavine said that broken equipment is a problem, and hadn’t known about that case in particular. He agreed that broken mics should be addressed. He also said that Medill supports NNN, but wasn’t sure how exactly it is funded.
Note: The set of questions and responses above has been clarified with exact quotes from an audio recording.
POSSIBLE NAME CHANGE
8:20 – Q: “I received the e-mail about that [the possibility of a name change], but how likely is the name change, and where are we now on that?”
Lavine: “Let’s call it what it is. It’s an exploration. We have much more than journalism at Medill, and we want the name to reflect that…. I have no idea what that time is…. I can tell you one thing: The name Medill will not change. I don’t know where that idea came from…. We have no right to change anything, actually. We can make suggestions or have conversations or explore it, but only the trustees of Northwestern can change the name…. Right now, we’re just exploring.”
CAREER SERVICES WEB SITE
Q: “With all the changes, is anything being done about the career services Web site? Because when you look at it, it is really pathetic.”
Lavine: Much like how the main site was redesigned, all of the school’s Web sites “will be tied together and all of them will be modernized.”
MARKETING VS. JOURNALISM
8:28 – Q: “I think a lot of what we are concerned about is the talk and rumors… of more marketing techniques into the journalism curriculum.”
Lavine: There are three certain things about journalism’s future:
1. Fragmentation of media audience, how it’s delivered and who’s delivering it.
2. The ability to choose what media you want.
3. Competition for the one fixed thing that is never going to change: time.
“The story you write, the video you shoot competes with everybody else…. Quality media will thrive. Thrive. But it won’t thrive if it becomes just a story…. You have to have an audience who’s going to know the story is there… or the story won’t exist.”
MACS vs. PCs AT MEDILL
8:32 – Q: It seems that professional journalism is using Macs, so what is the reason for using a Windows operating system?
Lavine: We aren’t interested in software, more what you can learn that you can do with software. You will have machines that can work and produce the stories you want, and a conceptual understanding of software, so you can understand what new software is coming out. Next year we will post the specs for hardware and software that you must meet. We’ll make a recommendation.
SEPARATING MULTIMEDIA & WRITING
8:35 – Q: “It seems to me like we get a lot of technology stuff thrown at us, but we don’t have much time to practice it, or learn it. And then it’s graded by our methods teachers, who don’t have a background in it. Who will teach the multimedia storytelling for the grads next quarter?”
Lavine: Depending on which techniques class you’re taking (interactive storytelling or video emphasis). you will have different instructors. Medill officials explain the difference between instructors and sections of each class, based on concentration and preference of emphasis. Lavine also asks all students to “just try” all of the multimedia options.
PROFESSOR SUPPORT FOR NEW PROGRAMS
8:39 – Q: “With all due respect, I just wonder =who the ‘we’ is that you’re talking about.” In my experience some of my professors are not as supportive of the changes are you are.
Lavine: Some faculty may not agree with all the changes going on at Medill. But — “Can we really stay where we were? It [journalism] has changed. Eventually, you get to tell better stories, and we have no choice in that.”
8:41 – Q: “What do you think about creating beat-specific classes at the undergraduate level?”
Lavine: Over time, the variety of electives will get better.
THE CHICAGO MAGAZINE ARTICLE
8:45 – Q: “Would you comment on the article in Chicago magazine?”
Lavine: “If you really want to be good journalists…there was an article done at the same time, at the Chronicle of Higher Education. The reporter that did that article did some things right. She made clear that when we talk about marketing… she made really clear that what we mean is audience understanding…. The value of that in the curriculum was overlooked in the Chicago article… and that is just a part of the curriculum. The other piece is… for all the things we’re doing, what’s gotten better, what’s gotten deeper? What remains the same is can you find, and tell, a better story. That’s what’s important. I thought that the writer from the Chronicle got that. ”
Lavine added that freshmen now spend more time in Writing and Reporting; sophomores do journalism in storefronts, not just in classrooms; and that Qatar will offer more international study. He also talked about a grad student whose story ran in the Sunday New York Times, and her successes.
REBUKE CONCERNING FACULTY GOVERNANCE
8:48 – Q: Asked for comment on the NU faculty resolution that rebuked the university administration for its handling of Medill.
Lavine: “There isn’t really much for me to say about it, except that the issues they had are not really issues with us, they are issues with the administration…. Medill was the example they used when they dealt with all of this… As I understand it, they have no more, they don’t have issues with us. I can tell you that that happened, and I don’t know much more.”
POOR PLANNING OF CURRICULUM
9:01 – Q: My concern is that those new technologies have not been implemented well, haphazardly. How have those things been implemented, and how can we better the way they are implemented? There should also be a more effective way to communicate concerns to the faculty/staff. A lack of planning and forethought seems to be the real issue here.
Lavine: The change has been a big task. “It has been a Herculean job to turn out 3 new curricula in 18-20 months time. Now it has to be implemented. We have the highest number hires at the university, 8 or 10 tenure-track faculty. We can only move as fast as we can set it up and move it out. My questions is ‘are we doing better than last year?’ I can tell you that it is a whole lot better than it was last winter or last spring or even this summer.” He suggests sending more e-mails to specific faculty.
Q: “We have mortgaged our futures to be here, and it seems like a lot of the program was half-baked, but we’re paying full price.”
Lavine: “I gotta tell the rest of you, this is not half-baked… I’m proud to be here. I don’t think you could go anywhere else and begin to equal the kind of experience, in process, you are getting now. I am really interested in tangibles.” He said journalists and recruiters see Medill as being ahead of everyone else, in terms of new media, and want to partner with the school.
Listen to clips from the exchange:
9:05 – Q: We hear a lot about what the new curriculum will do in the future, but what is it doing for me, as a junior?
Lavine: “The most I can do for your class, and the seniors, is tell the truth, which is that you came in under a different curriculum, and it is changing, no doubt, and freshmen coming in today are getting more, and different, and in some cases better…. The frustration I feel is that you’re saying, ‘We’re not getting what that new curriculum is all about.’ Absolutely true.” He adds alumni have the same complaint, and that: “I wish I could fix that too, and I can’t.”
NEW BROADCAST CHAIR
9:08 – Q: “The search for the new broadcast chair, how’s that coming?”
Lavine: We’re close to closing negotiations with a new head of broadcast, but can’t talk about it yet.
INDUSTRY SUPPORT FOR CHANGES
9:16 – Q: What are some publications that support the changes at Medill, and what are some that are more skeptical?
Response: Lavine says he could not think of a major news source that believes neither in engaging the audience nor quality journalism. He added that the faculty spent a quarter listening to speakers and experts about what’s coming in journalism.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT
9:20 – Q: “I essentially feel that Medill is not repaying the investment that I’m giving them, that what is being put into my education is going to go to, maybe, the class of 2012 or 2013, and the class of 2010 and 2009, are, essentially, getting shafted. How do you address that concern?”
Lavine: “Some of the stuff that went on last year was good, and some wasn’t. It needs to get better, we recognize that, and I’m sorry you had to go through that change. It was a lot better then than the model before that, and it’s getting better.” Lavine says that he is happy with the extra writing and reporting classes. He admits that freshman year classes are pretty “rugged and getting put together”, and that he hears that complaint often. He says that the world is a “trade off”, and we are doing our best to give all the students the best of writing and media.
MEDILL 2020 AND JR OPPORTUNITIES
9:27 – Q: How is Medill 2020 going to affect JR? Are you going to branch out to more countries, publications?”
Response: Lavine talks about the difficulty of getting students into papers/stations with unions. He also says that there are more and more publications that want to get JR students. “We want to go more and more international, and we are actively advertising for international faculty.”
TARGETING THE AUDIENCE
9:30 -Q: Is “targeting the audience” / engaging the audience focusing on the content or the packaging?
Lavine : “It never means pandering. Let’s get that off the table…. We do ethics and values and trust… and that for the audience is very important.” He also said, “Watchdog journalism is meaningless if you’re going after something that has no place in my [the audience's] life.”
If you have any other questions, please e-mail the dean at firstname.lastname@example.org.