Combining academic knowledge with hands-on journalistic experience: discussing new approaches with Jesper Gaarskjær

Almost at the end of the first year of Mundus 2.0, we talked to Jesper Gaarskjær, journalist and lecturer at the Danish School of Media and Journalism in Aarhus, about how the curriculum combines the two foci of academic research and journalistic training. One good example: the course "Public Opinion and the Media"!

Among postgraduate journalism programmes and schools, Mundus Journalism has always been considered a unique one attracting students and journalists from all around the world. Since 2005, when the first cohort of Mundusians started its journey in Aarhus, the media and journalism industry has undergone dramatic changes that need to be taken into account when reflecting on journalism education programmes and their structure; for this reason, joining the efforts with stakeholders and listening to students’ feedback, the Mundus Journalism Consortium and its partners constantly revise and monitor the curriculum and the structure of the programme in order to keep it relevant to practicing and aspiring journalists with a global mindset.

Mundus Journalism has remained a programme centered on an academic and research-based approach to journalism, but it has also integrated more practical journalistic training, creating a natural combination in which the former informs the latter. During the 2-years master’s, students are trained to think analytically and critically about the challenges of journalism and are stimulated to produce journalistic pieces applying the theoretical knowledge they acquire and deepen as they continue their studies.

This combined approach is exemplified by the close collaboration between the teaching staff at Aarhus University and the Danish School of Media and Journalism (DMJX), who design courses conjugating academic and hands-on foci. Today, we shine a spotlight on “Public Opinion and the Media”, the second course Mundus students attend during their first semester in Aarhus.

The course, taught in the first semester between the two institutions, pushes students to reflect on the relationship between public opinion and journalism through crafting their own projects to accomplish actual research within this field; together identifying academic puzzles, learn to collect and analyse data, and to report results in accordance with academic standards,  students are be trained in journalistic reporting of complex issues with a particular emphasis on visual storytelling and feature journalism.

In order to understand more about how the two approaches combines during the course, we interviewed Jesper Gaarskjær, journalist and lecturer of DMJX and responsible for the practical part together with Steffen Damkjær Moestrup.

MundusJournalism: How does the course combine academic teaching and hands-on journalistic training?

Jesper: After the first part of lectures given at Aarhus University by Morten Brænder and Teke Jacob Ngomba, Steffen and I focus on training students on different types of digital storytelling, leaving them free to choose the one they feel more comfortable with or they want to further explore to produce their stories. 360° degrees reporting, visual journalism, audio or mobile journalism are all touched upon during the course. At the end, students are asked to produce a deliberative feature story building on the concept of analytical journalism, which brings to the discussion a different explanation informed by academic knowledge to the puzzle.

We adopt a “learning by doing” approach; during the course, we organized a workshop on visualization and interactive infographics where students were asked to complete small practical exercises.

MundusJournalism: Sounds very diversified! How did students engage with the course and how is your experience in teaching Mundus students?

Jesper: It is always interesting and very inspiring to teach Mundus students: they come from all over the world, have different backgrounds and journalistic experience, which means that what they can bring to the course is multiple perspectives and a body of knowledge that is extremely rich and diverse. In addition, this year's Mundus students have different kind and levels of expertise in digital media, which made them able to learn from and help each other’s throughout the whole course. Public Opinion and the Media is a demanding course, but students engaged very much with it. Mundus students always inspire me and, thanks to their stories, I broaden my horizons as teacher and journalist..

Got intrigued by this course? Join Mundus Journalism porgramme for a life-changing journalistic and academic experience! Applications open again in November, 2021.

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