Things have changed in investigative journalism.
Many people don't see it, but journalism and law degrees actually go hand in hand. Many people in law often wish they understood more about public relations and policy, especially when communicating with the media. Conversely, reporters who tend to cover and investigate trails and law cases often wish they knew more about the complexities of the legal system. Luckily, many schools have recognized students' need and consequently, created dual programs that involve getting a degree in journalism and law.
Streamlining the process
One school to recently establish this program was Arizona State University. The institution recently launched a master's degree program that allows students to get a Master of Mass Communication and a Master of Legal Studies at the same time. The university pulled resources from its Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law to help develop the program. The program creators hope to welcome in two groups of students – those who want to pursue a career in journalism but want legal knowledge, and those who want to pursue a career in law but want media and communications knowledge. Essentially, the combined program, set to launch in the Fall of 2016, streamlines the knowledge that both programs offer and allows students to complete it in a short four semesters.
"Journalism and law represent a very powerful combination," noted Christopher Callahan, dean of the Cronkite School. "This innovative dual-degree program, combining the assets of the Cronkite School and the O'Connor College, will give journalists, aspiring journalists and communications professionals a much deeper understanding of complex legal issues and help improve news coverage."
ASU isn't the only one making this leap. Many other schools, including the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Columbia University have begun to develop similar programs in the past five years. However, Columbia's program allows students to complete the degree in seven semesters and asks that students accrue more credits during their time in the program. Comparatively, UNC Chapel Hill only allows students to be admitted to the dual-degree program after they have gotten into the law school and the journalism school independently. This means that students need to do double the work to apply to each program. Hopefully, more schools will begin to streamline the process like ASU did.
Yet why is there such a demand for these programs?
Some argue it has to do with the downfall of the media industry. Many publications and media organizations no longer have access to legal files they need to report on stories, and they don't have the budgets to hire lawyers to make documents public. Conversely, all comments and statements can be viewed through various media outlets, and lawyers no longer have ways of protecting themselves. Luckily, dual-degree programs help make these people a little more knowledgable in how to handle these challenges.
By Monique Smith