Many journalists start in a classroom rather than a newsroom, and panelists at the 2021 SPJ Conference stress the need for these classrooms to be safe and inclusive spaces.
University of North Texas professor Dorothy Bland said she encourages students and professors alike to start feeling comfortable outside of their current comfort zones.
The former dean recommends “scrubbing your syllabus” every semester to remain flexible as an educator, by expanding resource lists and including more works by people of color.
“It’s so important that we expand voices,” she said. “‘I’m a huge fan of making sure that we are tapping into resource and research opportunities with students.”
University of Kansas associate professor Jerry Crawford, said building an inclusive classroom includes making the space welcoming and immersive.
Crawford stressed pronouncing student names correctly and developing a classroom that inspires students to participate without forcing it.
“Not every student is ready to speak up,” he said. “They can get lost. Instead of saying they have to raise their hand, let them use Canvas or Blackboard for participation.”
Media ethics should be taught, but also discussed within a class, because it allows educators to learn from the students, according to the professor.
“I try to be that voice in the room,” Crawford said. “Allow students to define their own identities. I try to get colleagues to deeply listen to what these students say.”
Mei-Ling Hopgood, a national freelance writer and Northwestern University professor, said as she was growing up no one was talking about equity or inclusion in newsrooms.
“It was really sink or swim and it’s changed a lot,” she said. “I look at my own work under a microscope and ask what I could have done better.”
Hopgood said having humility as a professor has become a big part of how she teaches journalism students, because she wants to “know what she doesn’t know instead of assuming.”
How to Create is a journalism professor at Arizona State University with over 30 years of experience at the Arizona Republic.
Hawthorne James said educators should not just teach students how to do a job, but how to change it to be better.
“Students are leaders now and they need to feel ready,” she said. “That is the understanding that they are going to transform the industry.”
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