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Castle journalism course make students better international news consumers

By Wanda Praamsma, Communications Officer

Queen's in the World

The idea solidified while respected international journalist and Queen’s alumnus Jeffrey Kofman (Artsci’81) was giving a lecture earlier this summer at the Bader International Study Centre (BISC) about his experiences covering the Libyan Revolution in 2011.

BISC Executive Director Bruce Stanley had been brainstorming about a course on journalism for non-journalists for a while and seeing Mr. Kofman speak, he knew the London-based ABC journalist would be the perfect person to teach the course. That quickly led to INTS 312, Seminar in Modern European Studies: Journalism in the 21st Century, being taught this fall to a group of Queen’s students and others studying at the Castle from Japan, Korea and the U.S.

Jeffrey Kofman, ABC journalist and instructor of the Castle journalism course, and CBC Correspondent Nahlah Ayed speak to students at the CBC bureau in London.

“We wanted to offer a hands-on course that gives students a thorough look at the international process of news-making,” says Dr. Stanley. “It’s a unique opportunity – through Jeffrey’s work and the work of other Canadian and international journalists, students get to peer into the world of journalism during a period of huge transformation. It’s also a course that complements the international educational mandate of both Queen’s and the BISC.”

The course is designed to give students a critical perspective on the news and help them become better news consumers. Throughout the term, Mr. Kofman takes students on a behind-the-scenes look at how news is presented and how the industry is faring in a time of great change, with the shift to online and social media, and the struggle to fund media organizations within a new advertising landscape.

“It’s very easy to be a passive news consumer right now and look uncritically at all the information that is coming at us,” says Mr. Kofman. “I hope this course gives students a solid foundation in how the media works, which is fundamental in navigating the vast amounts of information online. It is designed to help them know what to look for – in turn, it not only makes them better news consumers, but also better citizens.”

Mr. Kofman is drawing on his strong contacts in the industry to bring in (or Skype in) several well-respected journalists to the Castle, including Queen’s alumna Lyse Doucet (Artsci’80), Foreign Correspondent BBC World Service, Lisa LaFlamme, Chief Anchor CTV National News, and Michael Cooke, editor of the Toronto Star. He’s also giving students a look at both the “high end” and “low end” of journalism, with London-based guests from Wallpaper (Publisher Gord Ray, Com’93) and Monocle magazines (Executive Producer Gillian Dobias, Artsci’81) and a mock tabloid newsroom led by a London reporter who later renounced tabloid journalism. Among more traditional assignments, students will also have the unique opportunity to write their own news stories, gaining insight into the process of news-gathering.

Mr. Kofman says as a student at Queen’s he never imagined he would be teaching at Queen’s. He’s impressed by the curiosity and enthusiasm of his students. As a Queen’s grad he finds it especially rewarding. “It’s really satisfying for me to go back and teach for the university that educated me,” he says. “In a small way, I’m paying it forward and I hope I’m helping to shape the outlook of these students as others at Queen’s helped shape me.”