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The Door to Journalism

Journalism education sought by Waseda

Waseda University has a history of producing many outstanding journalists. In this day and age, what is sought from universities in order to fulfill the social mission of journalism education?
We will search for the meaning and potential in the fusion of academism and journalism.

The Potential of "J-School", the First Graduate School of Journalism in Japan

The journalism course opened in the Graduate School of Political Science in April 2008 is the first graduate school of journalism in Japan that confers a Master's Degree (journalism). In order to explain the objective for establishing this course, the contents of the course, and the meaning of journalism education for a university, the following article was contributed by Shiro Segawa, Project Manager for J-School and Professor in the Faculty of Political Science and Economics.

Professor Shiro Segawa
Faculty of Political Science and Economics

Why has Waseda engaged in journalism?

"When you think of Waseda, you think of journalism." I have used this phrase many times since the establishment of the journalism course in the Graduate School of Political Science (commonly referred to as J-School). Certainly, in the world of media, Waseda is the largest force no matter where you look. It is said that Waseda has an independent spirit that is free from political influence. This independent spirit is necessary for journalism, which should play the role of monitoring the powers that be.

However, is Waseda truly "independent"? Six of the thirty Japanese Prime Ministers since the end of World War II have come from Waseda. In the last ten years alone, there was Keizo Obuchi, Yoshiro Mori, and Yasuo Fukuda. It seems that Waseda is not separated from the political arena.

So, where does the affinity lie between Waseda and journalism? The answer is found in the words of journalist Tetsuya Chikushi, a Waseda University alumnus (Graduate School of Political Science) who passed away in November 2008.

In final episode of Taji-Soron (Arguing Many Issues), a popular program that was part of NEWS23 (TBS), Chikushi gave a talk entitled "unchanging things". "Maintain a tone of freedom in this society by not fearing being part of the minority and by raising diverse opinions and perspectives." (March 28th, 2008)

This statement was a reference to the spirit of the television program, but I also believe that it is the essence of the spirit which Waseda has steadily acquired. Our school song contains the line "an enterprising spirit, independence of our university". This line gives birth to a tone of freedom that is free from the restriction of rules. An atmosphere of diverse and free discussion is the greatest asset of journalism and must be protected. That is why Waseda is synonymous with journalism.

Why create J-School at this time?

Waseda University has produced a large number of outstanding journalists. However, it cannot be said that the system of education was responsible for producing these journalists. A strong, autonomous image may be the perfect fit for the ground of Waseda.

In the background of the establishment of J-School is the deterioration in the quality of journalism caused by changes in the media structure due to the advent of the internet.

The rapid spread of the internet is causing a direct assault on existing media such as television and newspapers. Decreases in advertising revenue have shaken the foundation of existing media, and the corporate aspect of media has been clearly exposed. There has been an increase in content for the purpose of increasing audience ratings and circulation, and a situation exists in which articles similar to "breaking news" are transmitted 24 hours a day, all without sufficient journalistic investigation.

Another problem which cannot be overlooked is the lack of journalists with specialized expertise. Citizens rely on the astute reporting of specialized journalists to unravel the complexities of fields such as class division, pensions, nursing care, national defense, and the global environment.

In the past, on-the-job-training from superiors was thought to be sufficient for the development of reporters at media corporations. Today, the failure of such training is clearly visible. To begin with, employee education and journalism education differ in their objectives. Universities must act as a cradle for true journalism education.

What are the features of the curriculum?

The Graduate School of Political Science implemented the "Master of Arts Program for Journalist Education in Science and Technology (MAJESTy)" in 2005. J-School was established based on the experience gained from the MAJESTy program, with the intention of expanding and developing the program into other areas. Inherited from the MAJESTy program are 5 fundamental concepts essential for an advanced graduate school of journalism (representative course examples are listed in parenthesis).

(1) Critical thinking
(Data Interpretation, Research Design, Public Philosophy, Fundamental Theory of Free Expression, etc.)

(2) Deep insight regarding the role of journalism and the media
(Journalism Theory, Media History, Information Law, Public Relations, etc.)

(3) Specialized knowledge = Scientific knowledge regarding a broad range of specialized areas and understanding of philosophy
(Modern Political Thought, Introductory Economics for Journalism, Japanese Foreign Policy Theory, Sports Imagery Theory, etc.)

(4) Professional journalistic investigation/power of expression
(Expressive Writing, News Room, Video Journalism, Survey Reporting Method, etc.)

(5) On-site approach = Thought based on fieldwork
(Internships, Web Journalism)

Regarding concepts 1, 2, and 3, lectures are developed which contain specialized knowledge from throughout all of Waseda. This knowledge is not limited to academic staff of the Faculty of Political Science and Economics, but also includes the Faculty of Education and Integrated Arts and Sciences, the Faculty of Social Sciences, and the Faculty of Science and Engineering. A variety of courses are assembled to provide specialized knowledge in the various fields of politics, economics, international relations, society, culture, sports, scientific technology, and general research (such as environmental issues).

Concept 4 relates to practical education taught in small groups with a currently active journalist serving as an instructor. This kind of education was lacking in the conventional educational systems of universities. Multiple courses have been opened for the course entitled "News Room", which provides practical study of journalism by studying the fundamentals of journalistic investigation and article creation. Attention is also paid to visual image and internet related areas.

As a general rule, internships are a compulsory course for Concept 5. These internships allow students to experience the actual working environment at media corporations and other media-related enterprises. Through courses such as "Web Journalism", articles written by students are actively sent to the independent web magazine "Spork". A concept that exists throughout the entire curriculum is the creation of J-School as a place where academism and journalism meet. We hope that new knowledge will be born when the two come together and undergo personal transformation.

What kind of professional is being developed?

Waseda University's J-School seeks to develop journalists that possess a strong sense of individuality and can be active in the media environment of the 21st century. This men and women will work from free positions to drive the creation of new media, or will reform existing media from the inside. Furthermore, we strive to develop specialized journalists that possess strength in specialized areas and that can actively question specialized researchers. In summary, we are developing truly professional journalists who understand the importance of their mission and who possess specialized knowledge and practical skills. We also plan to act as a center for educational research with the aim of increasing the performance of mid-level journalists working in media corporations.

J-School focuses on the Asian region, seeking to create a mature public sphere in Asia. J-School seeks to create a system for joint work in education and research with other leading graduate schools of journalism in Asia. We hope to perform joint education to develop "Japanese journalists who are well-versed in Asia" and "Asian journalists who are well-versed in Japan".

A fundamental aspect of journalistic method is to obtain information through actions such as going on-site, talking to people, and acquiring reports. This information must then be critically (autonomously) examined. Finally, this information must be presented to users in an easy-to-understand, appealing format. These methods should be comprehended and learned by not only journalists, but also by members of corporations and governments, as well as by the general public. Journalistic method can be called the ultimate communication tool for citizens in the quest to construct a mature civil society. I believe that the potential of J-School is infinite.

Mass Media Employment Status of Waseda University Graduates (survey by Career Center)
  Undergraduate Total Graduate School Total Overall Total
Newspaper Industry 94 20 114
Publishing Industry 147 14 161
Broadcasting Industry 128 7 135
Advertising Industry 207 17 224
Printing Industry 48 11 59
Production Industry 74 5 79
Communication Corporations 11 2 13
  Undergraduate Total Graduate School Total Overall Total
Newspaper Industry 101 11 112
Publishing Industry 141 9 150
Broadcasting Industry 109 14 123
Advertising Industry 150 17 167
Printing Industry 70 9 79
Production Industry 72 6 78
Communication Corporations 11 2 13
  Undergraduate Total Graduate School Total Overall Total
Newspaper Industry 97 13 110
Publishing Industry 118 5 123
Broadcasting Industry 109 10 119
Advertising Industry 135 10 145
Printing Industry 63 13 76
Journalism & Media Related Programs at Waseda University

The strength of the entire university is mobilized to actively promote journalism education at both the graduate school level, with the Graduate School of Journalism (J-School), and at the undergraduate level, with theme study (minor open to all university students) Journalism Course held by the Open Education Center.

Additionally, several other programs exist that bear the name of journalism and media. Some examples of such programs at the undergraduate level are the theme study "Media Culture Research Course", as well as the "Bungei (Literature) Journalism Course" of the School of Culture, Media and Society. From April 2007, sports journalism related courses have been held using the "Takeo Okubo Sports Journalism Fund". Also, from 2009, the School of Political Science and Economics will implement a system for a minor in journalism. At the graduate school level, an "Information Journalism" course exists as one of the 4 focuses (research areas) of the Okuma School of Public Management, a professional graduate school.

Furthermore, in the category of award activities, the "Waseda Journalism Award in Memory of Ishibashi Tanzan" was created in 2000 and has since become well recognized. Every year, by honoring outstanding journalism activities, Waseda contributes to the development of professionals who exercise free speech and who recognize their social mission and responsibility, while also helping to form an open environment of free speech.

Professor Shiro Segawa
Faculty of Political Science and Economics

Graduate from the Tokyo University School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Liberal Studies (Science History, Science Philosophy). Served at the Mainichi Shimbun as editorialist, assistant director of the editing department, director of the science and environment department, and special Washington correspondent. Has served as program manager of J-School (Graduate School of Political Science) since January 2008. Some of his many works include "Health Food Note" (Iwanami-Shinsho Publishing) and "Card Science" (Blue Backs), as well as the co-written works "Population Explosion of 3 Billion in Asia" (Mainichi Shimbun) and "Science White Papers" (Kodansha).