University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications associate professor Joe Weber’s studies “Teaching Fairness in Journalism: A Challenging Task” and “Teaching Business and Economic Journalism: Fresh Approaches” were published in the AEJMC Educator last month.
In response to the debate in American journalism on whether objectivity is possible or worth teaching, Weber conducted a study for his teaching fairness article in which students were lectured on fairness, balance, objectivity and bias. The students wrote news stories before and after the lecture. Evaluators, associate professor Barney McCoy and visiting professor John Baker, found that there was no substantial improvement in fairness or bias, which points out the difficulties involved in teaching fairness in journalism.
“Teaching students to be fair and to give proper weight to all worthy points of view in any story is a tough job,” Weber said. “Cable TV, blogs and social media often offer opinionated accounts of news, serving up ideology instead of fact-based and thorough journalism. We try at the college to inculcate a different sensibility in students – stressing that it’s not their opinions that matter, but their full and balanced reporting. That, in our view, is the highest and best tack journalists can take.”
For “Teaching Business and Economic Journalism: Fresh Approaches,” Weber reviewed the syllabi of many colleagues around the country who teach business and economic journalism and discussed the techniques that are the most successful. He’s currently using some of those techniques for his class Financial Communications, which he’s teaching in collaboration with University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business Administration.
“Students often have no clue of what business journalism is and they’re frightened by the idea of economic journalism,” he said. “But showing them, in clever ways, just how exciting and useful this still-growing area of the reporting profession is can open lots of doors for them. By using video, audio and textbooks, as well as well-designed assignments, teachers can make the area come alive.”
Before coming to University of Nebraska–Lincoln as a professor, Weber worked in newspapers and magazines for 35 years. He spent most of that time at BusinessWeek, becoming chief of correspondents.
University of Nebraska–Lincoln CoJMC Dean Maria Marron is currently the editor of the Educator, which is published by SAGE.
About AEJMC: The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) is a nonprofit, educational association of journalism and mass communication educators, students and media professionals. The Association’s mission is to promote the highest possible standards for journalism and mass communication education, to cultivate the widest possible range of communication research, to encourage the implementation of a multi-cultural society in the classroom and curriculum, and to defend and maintain freedom of communication in an effort to achieve better professional practice and a better informed public.