In an attempt to keep up with a rapidly evolving media landscape, the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism is developing a new initiative to add courses encompassing the economic and entrepreneurial aspects of communication and journalism.
Though the names and timelines of many of the courses are still unknown, it is an initiative referred to as Economic Literacy and Entrepreneurship, and Annenberg faculty said they believe ELE courses will maintain the school’s commitment to consistency and cutting-edge education.
“We want to try to promote global critical thinking: how to think of this rapidly changing market and empower the students to be market creators,” said Clinical Associate Professor Christopher Smith, who is heavily involved in the development of the ELE initiative. “We want them to be big media magnets of the 21st century.”
Before the financial crisis, the journalism world was already suffering, making an economic education even more important for those entering the media realm.
“This is very important in the communication world,” said School of Journalism Director Geneva Overholser. “The communication and journalism world certainly is changing, so we have a sense of urgency that others will feel down the line.”
Smith says it’s important for Annenberg students to not only know the ins and outs of journalism and communication, but to also understand the economic media landscape.
“The institutional structure that defined the 20th century is going away,” Smith said. “We want our school to be on the leading edge of what the new structure will be.”
Though Annenberg already had numerous courses in the economic realm, those backing the ELE initiative hope creating a more focused program will give all students a stronger economic foundation.
“In the present circumstances, it’s important for all our students to understand basic economic principles,” said the School of Communication Director Larry Gross. “A great deal of what goes on, what works and what doesn’t, what flourishes and what doesn’t in these technological areas depends on their ability to succeed economically.”
Though Annenberg maintains strong relationships with all USC schools, including the Marshall School of Business, they are looking to hire entirely new faculty to teach these courses.
“We are definitely in touch with the Marshall School,” said Abigail Kaun, Annenberg associate dean of academic programs and student affairs. “There’s a proposal in the works for a curriculum partnership at the graduate level, but our main focus is what we should be teaching within Annenberg.”
As for making ELE courses a requirement, nothing is set in stone.
“None of that is finalized,” Kaun said. “In the years to come, we may find that there is a required course for Annenberg students, but now we’re working on getting classes off the ground for the fall.”
One ELE class is already up and running this semester — COMM 499, Economic Principles for Communication and Journalism,. The class has had a low student turnout, but Professor Ergin Bayrak expects that, as time passes, student interest will increase.
“It’s pretty new and unexpected for the students,” Bayrak said. “We’re trying to get them to understand that economic literacy is important. It will also help them be better and more well-informed citizens.”
Though the classes have not been promoted heavily, an ELE Facebook group has formed, and there are currently about 10 students enrolled in Bayrak’s class. Administrators and professors hope word of ELE will soon spread.
“We hope from word of mouth and more exposure that this will gain students’ interest,” Bayrak said.
Annenberg faculty agree the new program will leave students better prepared for the future and will make Annenberg students more competitive in the job market.
“[Employers] definitely prefer someone who knows about economics,” Bayrak said. “They need people who understand the causes and repercussions of economic changes. In media and communications, they are even more interested in people who know economics because of the effect economics has on the industry.”
Of the ELE courses, faculty said they are looking for student input.
“We want to emphasize student input on this in terms of curriculum development and what the Annenberg school can be doing to be more valuable to students,” Kaun said. “It would not be wise to ignore that valuable input.”