The Master’s Program
in Community Journalism
The Master’s Program in Community Journalism (“Com-J”) encourages students to explore new ways to serve our communities through the evolving practices of journalism, and to think critically about the roles news plays in our communities. “Community” has a broad meaning in this program, incorporating small towns, urban areas and communities of interest.
Read the Poynter Institute’s feature on the program.
Check out what’s happening in the program now.
Students develop writing, visual and digital journalism skills, produce and test prototypes for news innovations, and intern in a professional newsroom, all in one year. The program serves recent B.A. recipients in journalism or other fields, as well as professionals seeking to deepen and expand their knowledge.
Students take two semesters of coursework at the UA campus in Tuscaloosa and then immerse themselves in a three-month professional journalism experience from May to July. To date, students have gained their professional journalism experience at The Anniston Star, the award-winning paper of record in Anniston, Ala. (Students interning in Anniston move to the Anniston area in May, as it is too far to commute from Tuscaloosa.)
The program has an impressive record of job placements. In the first six years of this program, more than 80% of our graduates were working full time in journalism or were furthering their education within six months of graduation. This rate is significantly higher than the national average over the same period, according to the Annual Surveys of Journalism and Mass Communication Graduates.
A Career in Community Journalism
By far, most journalists work for outlets that serve communities, whether towns, cities or communities of interest. But most Americans think of journalism as national media, which they increasingly dislike. The profession needs more people who know and care about communities, and who understand the unique challenges communities face. Skillful, authoritative news coverage, an understanding of digital multimedia tools, and courageous, well-informed editorial leadership must be grounded in knowledge of local issues. That is what our one-year master’s program offers — new ways of doing journalism and helping our communities, through a master’s program that blends the resources and expertise of a major university journalism program with the resources and expertise of a nationally esteemed community news organization.
The Com-J program typically accepts between six and eight students per year. Applicants must fulfill all UA Graduate School requirements for admission into the Community Journalism program. Required application materials include a statement of purpose, all undergraduate transcripts including junior college transcripts, GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, a current resume, and three samples of journalistic work (news stories, etc.), if available. All material may be submitted directly to the UA Graduate School. Visit the How to Apply page for more information on admission requirements.
The one-year Com-J program requires a minimum of 31 semester-hours of credit, and these will be completed in 12 months, from Aug. 16 through Aug. 15. Students must complete all work with at least a “B” average. A professional quality and conceptually rigorous project is required. A thesis is not required.
Students must complete the following courses:
• Orientation to Graduate Studies (1 credit)
• Depth Reporting (3 credits)
• Media Production Tools (instruction in digital technologies, 2 credits)
• Journalism Theory and Research (3 credits)
• History of Journalism and the First Amendment (3 credits)
• General elective (3 credits)
• Contemporary Issues and Ethics in Journalism (3 credits)
• Producing Community Journalism (3 credits)
• Assessing Community Journalism (3 credits)
• Master’s Project (2 credits)
• Master’s Project (1 credit)
• Practicum in Community News (in Anniston — 1 credit)
• Seminar in Professional Journalism (newsroom internship in Anniston, 3 credits)
Students produce a project rather than a thesis. The project requires students to think through and develop new ways of doing community journalism, and to learn practical ways to test these innovations.
• Chooses a community issue or problem, and reports on the issue or problem in-depth
• Researches the ways digital online news media can best address this issue or problem
• Learns new media tools and develops a workable prototype for a digital online innovation
• Tests the innovation’s effectiveness, using different methods including web analytics
• Considers what results imply for communities and for journalism
Students think critically about what it means for a news innovation to be successful. Is it successful if it helps community members? If it uncovers unpleasant truths? If it helps news outlets make money? Are there legal or ethical issues? The student writes a project report, which includes the student’s in-depth reporting, research on the media’s role, methods used for constructing the site, results of assessment, and implications. For more information about the Master’s Project and examples of former students’ projects, visit http://www.comj.ua.edu.
Having some college-level journalism experience is helpful, and this receives some consideration in the admission process. However, college-level journalism experience is not required, and a number of our students with no prior experience have done well in the program. Applicants should submit examples of journalistic work (if available) through the Graduate School’s online application system.
Six to eight students will be admitted for 2014-2015. The application deadline is March 31, but late applications will be considered if space remains. There are no spring or summer admissions for the Community Journalism track (we do allow spring admissions for our thesis track).
Applicants are eligible to compete for a limited number of partial graduate assistantships available through the department. Those awarded an assistantship would assist a professor for 10 hours per week and receive half tuition payment for the regular school year plus a small monthly stipend. Assistantship funding does not apply to the required 5 hours of summer credit, but the Anniston Star pays students for 40 hours of work per week in the summer internship. There is no separate application process for assistantships: The graduate faculty evaluates only the material submitted with the student’s application to the program. For more information about financial aid through the University, visit financialaid.ua.edu.
The town of Anniston is across the state from Tuscaloosa; therefore, students must move from Tuscaloosa to Anniston in order to complete the program. Students make the move in early May, so students may want to seek a nine-month lease in Tuscaloosa, or try to sublease their Tuscaloosa apartments for the summer. Students should begin actively seeking housing in Anniston by February. The journalism department and the Anniston Star have some contact information for apartment complexes and homeowners in the Anniston area who have offered three-month leases in the past, and students have had no major difficulties finding housing. However, please note that neither the department nor the Star arrange housing for students. Students are responsible for finding their own housing, and this will entail some searching.
We welcome your interest in becoming a part of this program. For more information, please contact the graduate coordinator, Dr. Matthew Bunker at firstname.lastname@example.org or (205) 348-8616. You may also contact the main Journalism Department office at (205) 348-7155.