Masters of deception

The lobby of the journalism school. (Photo: Daniel Wesser)

The lobby of the King’s journalism school. (Photo: Daniel Wesser)

The journalism school made a major cut in the summer of 2017 by choosing to no longer provide two of the three streams available for the journalism master’s (MJ).

Prior to this year, King’s provided both the new ventures program and the data and investigative program for students entering the MJ.

The purpose of the new ventures program was to teach students entrepreneurial journalism, giving students the skills that they need to be able to start their own journalism business.  Whereas the data and investigative program focuses more on the research side of journalism, teaching students to analyze and report on various types of data.

As of now, the journalism school is only running the data and investigative stream, which has left students throughout the journalism school unhappy.

Drew May, a student currently in the data and investigative program, initially applied for the new ventures program in January of last year. Around the time he was accepted into the program, he got a call from the journalism school letting him know that the program was no longer being offered.

“I was told that they were only doing the data program and that they would transfer my application to that, which I was totally fine with. I was a little bummed, but it wasn’t too big of a deal,” he said.

Prior to starting investigative, May had planned to start his own journalism company. Now that he has completed more than half of the program, his goals have shifted to working in the investigative field.

“I’ve had a lot of fun and met some nice people. I don’t have any regrets about coming and I’m not mad that they decided not to include new ventures. Some other people didn’t feel that way though,” May said.

Some students weren’t as accepting as May when it came to the change. Mathew Kahansky, a student who completed a one-year bachelor’s degree last year, planned on continuing into new ventures this year. Similarly to May, he received a call a before the term began, letting him know that this was no longer an option.

“Basically I was put in the spot where I could either do this new program that they offered me or I would have to find something else to do with my life, and they gave me about a month’s notice to figure that out,” Kahansky said.

Expecting to continue on with new ventures prior to getting that call, Kahansky resigned the lease on his apartment and turned down multiple major job opportunities in Toronto. With everything on the line, he decided to continue on and give the data and investigative stream a try.

“I basically put my entire life into doing the master’s. So I was kind of put in a position where I didn’t have too much of a choice,” he said.

He began the MJ in July but quickly found that he had no interest in a career in data. This caused him to leave the program after a few months and follow a career outside of journalism.

“I was starting to have mental health problems, about being stuck in this program that I wasn’t interested in, and when a company I was volunteering for offered me a job, I decided to take the job instead,” he said.

According to Kahansky, he was told that the new ventures program was being cut due to lack of interest, but when he began the program in July, more than half of his classmates were intending to also take the program.

“I was painted a picture of a program really struggling, and then when it looked otherwise I was left with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth,” he said.

So why is the journalism school cutting the program?

King’s journalism school Director Tim Currie mirrored the previous statement, claiming that there was only one student who applied for the new ventures program this year, Kahansky.

When asked further about this, he added that it wasn’t true that the majority of students currently in the master’s program had applied for the new ventures program. Though he later corrected that statement near the end of his interview.

Currie also stated that another reason that the new ventures program was cut was due to a review lead by Dalhousie’s faculty of graduate studies.

“One of the points made by the reviewers was that the two-stream structure wasn’t really specific relative to other programs, and it was a bit of an anomaly,” he said.

These results have caused the journalism school to change directions, hoping to change the entirety of the master’s program in the next few years.

“One of the conclusions from (the review) is that by offering two very specific streams, we’re maybe a little bit too specific for the job market,” he said.

“One of the things that we tried to do when we launched the program in 2011, was to try and differentiate the program from different ones out there. We didn’t want to compete directly with them, so we may have gone a little bit too specific and this is all part of the process of fixing that.”

From DalOnline.

From DalOnline.

According to Currie, the plans for the program will allow for a more generic journalism program, similar to those offered at Carleton and Ryerson.

But is this really the best course of action for the journalism school? For both May and Kahansky, the specialized program is what drew them to King’s, rather than studying at its competitors.

“King’s was my first choice. Even though my first choice was new ventures, this program is still more specialized than Ryerson’s program. I thought that would be more useful than just a general master’s,” May said.

The future for prospective master’s students

Other students on campus have raised an issue with this development as well. First-year journalism student Avery Mullen plans on continuing into the data master’s once he is finished with his bachelor’s degree, but is concerned that the program is changing.

“As someone who is interested in statistics, data gathering and information technologies, I was looking forward to pursuing data journalism once I finished my bachelor’s degree. I’m disappointed to hear that this particular stream may be discontinued before I have the opportunity to enrol,” he said.

“I would like a specialized degree that would allow me to stand out as having a unique skill set in the job market. A generic master’s of journalism will not fulfill that need as effectively as a specific master’s would.”

Some students that are currently in the one-year bachelor’s program also expressed concerns with the changing program.

Unlike students already enrolled in the master’s program, the one-year bachelor’s program never got a call letting them know that the certain streams were being cut. This has caused many of the students who were planning on continuing into new ventures to look into opportunities elsewhere.

One student currently enrolled in the one-year, Karli Zschogner, initially had planned to join the third stream that King’s had advertised, a journalism and law program, which would provide students with both a journalism master’s and a law degree.

Though Zschogner may not have been able to take this program whether it was still offered or not, she took issue with the fact that it was still being advertised by the university at the time of her application, even though the university had planned on cutting the program.

She also thinks that the stream is a unique and interesting way to pursue the journalism field, which is what caused her to apply for the program in the first place.

As of now, for the upcoming year, the only stream available will be data and investigative, with plans to reboot the entirety of the program in the next couple of years.

Though, if anyone was looking to face some of the issues that Kahansky, May or Zschogner had earlier in the year, you can always apply for new ventures, since the journalism school still hasn’t updated the application.