Compared to a communications degree or an English degree, a master’s in journalism program might seem fairly specialized as it is. However, journalists know that the field of telling true stories about real current events encompasses different media, content and skills. As a result, some master’s in journalism degree programs offer areas of specialization or concentration that a student can pursue to make sure their graduate education matches their professional interests. In programs that offer different areas of specialized study, concentrations usually focus on a type of media or storytelling, a content area or a particular skill.
Specializations on Certain Types of News Storytelling
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Some areas of focus in the field of journalism have to do with the method, channel or medium of news storytelling. These journalism specializations might include magazine reporting, video and broadcast reporting and digital or multimedia journalism.
On the surface, both newspaper reporting and magazine reporting might seem similar, as they both involve written storytelling. However, work in magazine reporting is more likely to encompass long-form narrative writing, feature writing, memoir writing, op-ed writing, personality profile writing, how-to guide writings and other types of reporting less common in the newsroom of a typical daily paper.
Journalism programs often emphasize writing skills, but not all news reporting takes the form of text printed in a newspaper or magazine. Video and broadcast reporting is an important part of journalism. In a graduate school specialization in broadcast journalism, you might complete coursework in digital audio and podcast production and advanced techniques for broadcast production. Some master’s in journalism programs that emphasize broadcast journalism include coursework in “backpack video journalism,” in which one journalist serves multiple roles of writing, shooting and editing a multimedia news story for broadcast.
A degree program that emphasizes digital journalism might include studies in online news reporting, online video journalism, multimedia journalism, interactive data visualization, social media reporting and coding and software configuration for journalism.
Concentrations on Reporting on Specialized Content Areas
In stories that go beyond the basics – who, what, when, where and how – it can help to have a background in a content area so that you have the background knowledge to write a story. Putting a news event in context can provide readers with a deeper understanding of the event and the trends, motivations, factors and history that pertain to it.
Science reporting is a big topic in modern journalism. Within this broader topic, you might find even narrower areas of emphasis, such as health reporting, environmental journalism and technology journalism.
Reporting on the social sciences, too, can require specialized knowledge. Many news stories, especially in the realm of national news, pertain to politics and policy. Adjacent to these areas is foreign affairs journalism, which is concerned with international relations. If the issues you’re concerned with are of more of a social nature than a political nature, consider a master’s in journalism program that would allow you to specialize in social justice reporting.
Reporting in just about every content area requires some amount of background knowledge. While a journalist with a generalist background could certainly put in the time to research each different topic for every story they are assigned, there are benefits to building expertise in a focus area, including streamlining and speeding up the process of researching and writing a story.
Other content area concentrations in a journalism degree program include arts and culture, business and economics, sports and education.
Specializations on Developing Particular Journalism Skills
All journalists should cultivate the skills to investigate news stories thoroughly, accurately and without bias to the best of their abilities. However, the level of investigative skills you need differs greatly depending on your role and topic of focus in the field. If you want to write feel-good fluff stories about entertainment and travel destinations, you probably don’t have as much of a need for advanced investigative skills as a reporter who routinely tackles hard-hitting exposés.
Graduate journalism students who aim to use their investigative skills to uncover scandals, wrongdoing and uncomfortable truths may benefit from pursuing more extensive studies in investigative journalism. Specializing in this area might involve taking classes in data-driven journalism, in-depth journalism and international investigative reporting practices. Putting what you learn in the classroom into practice on your own stories is an important and challenging part of investigative journalism.
Students focusing on investigative journalism should expect to take some sort of practicum to work on real, meaningful pieces of investigative journalism.
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