So They Might Tell Their Own Stories: Enhancing Entrepreneurial Journalism Strategies for HBCUs

So They Might Tell Their Own Stories: Enhancing Entrepreneurial Journalism Strategies for HBCUs

Jayne Cubbage (Bowie State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5808-9.ch005
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For students studying journalism at HBCUs, there is a need for increased training in entrepreneurial journalism to offset the vastly changing media landscape and to train future media practitioners to become enterprising and to tell their own stories. However, in light of the ongoing challenges faced by many HBCUs, students receive a variety of entrepreneurial experiences ranging from moderate to sparing to none. In light of the new demands of the 21st century and the current shift to an entrepreneurship based economy, particularly within the media industries, this study using institutional theory examines the largest HBCUs by undergraduate enrollment to find that most schools with JMC programs offer either a course in entrepreneurship and or some business or entrepreneurship access on their campus. In order to ensure that all students who wish to become entrepreneurs receive adequate training during the foundational years of an undergraduate program, this study examines some of the barriers and challenges facing some universities and outlines suggestions and best practices.
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In today’s ever changing news and media landscape the need for enhanced strategies for teaching relevant media skills and practices to communications scholars has reached a critical mass (Kelly, 2015; Smith, 2012). For students studying journalism or mass communication (JMC) at historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs the bulk of students are in fact not interested in pursuing careers in news, yet find themselves in communications majors either studying broadcasting and some print courses with the bulk of students seeking entre to fields such as public relations, marketing or new and digital media.

Many students at HBCUs, are simply planning careers as media hosts and producers, either in front of the camera as “entertainment” or “sports” reporters, on-air radio hosts or “DJ’s” or they seek to produce content behind the scenes. The numbers of students in media related majors at HBCUs are overwhelmingly not interested in journalism and openly express contempt for traditional news platforms and ultimately reveal that they receive their news from social media and satirical news sites and programming such as The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, The Onion, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver or perhaps their Twitter feed aka “Black Twitter” (Crawford, 2012). Other problems among students include the lack of proper grammar and critical thinking skills, which are key to successful careers in journalism, (Prince, 2006; Rushing Daniel, 2016, p. 159).

The quandary created by these current set of circumstances speak to the notion that most communications programs at HBCUs have at a minimum a news set or television or digital studio and at least one class with in their curricula whereby students produce newscasts because they are among the easiest ways to teach production skills. At the same time on-campus events make for an intuitive source for packages and other news stories to foster student learning of production skills and news processes. Additionally, students at many HBCUs have access to online radio stations and the ability to learn how to produce audio content for either streaming services or Internet radio stations. These forms of broadcasting outlets, both television and radio provide excellent educational opportunities for student learning, yet many students eschew journalistic training and tend to focus on entertainment formats. That fact within itself is not troubling as other communication and media industries can be parlayed into entrepreneurship and resulting businesses (Graybeal, 2019; Kelly 2015).

Alternatively, students who are interested in pursuing traditional news careers in radio, television or print, may opt to study at predominately White institutions or PWIs, with more developed and resource enriched programs, while HBCUs continue to educate a majority of all African Americans, major notwithstanding. Today, about 55 HBCUs offer training in media in the form of mass communication, journalism or media school, department and a handful of colleges focusing on media education (Crawford 2012). That stated, and because this work is focused on journalism entrepreneurship, news for African Americans in the United States is still marginalized with much of what is offered being delivered by people who do not look like themselves.

In the age of the Internet and all things digital, along with the predominance of social media it is reasonable for news to evolve to digital platforms. Given the centrality of digital devices and media platforms for students today, it is also reasonable for students to adopt their own newsgathering practices to tell the stories of their own communities, particularly their own age group. This is especially salient for students at HBCUs, given the number of students who are seeking “on-air” positions as either sports or entertainment reporters. Again, while these are noble aspirations for students, the number of opportunities for on-air positions is severely limited and they often require dogmatic strategy to attain them, such as internships during matriculation and networking. Both are severely lacking among students at HBCUs.

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