GV School of Communications prepares to educate journalism students through new grant


GVL / Meghan Tripp

Zoë Murphy, Staff Writer

Leaders in the communications sector of Grand Valley State University have begun to implement big changes to the university’s School of Communications as it accepts an innovation grant to better educate its multimedia journalism students through real-world experience.

The grant is facilitated by public media outlets WGVU Public Media and PBS NewsHour.

WGVU Public Media is the public media station for NPR and PBS programming in West Michigan, including the Muskegon, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo areas, while PBS Newshour is a news program on TV and online.

The grant is specific to the Student Reporting Labs (SRL) area of PBS NewsHour.

James Ford, a professor in GVSU’s multimedia journalism major in its School of Communications, explained the nature of the grant and the program associated with it, which he hopes will improve GVSU’s journalism program.

“PBS NewsHour is a national education program that teaches students how to tell stories through video journalism,” Ford said. “This public media initiative empowers young people to report stories that share the reality of today’s youth, reach authentic audiences, join conversations about the issues that affect their future and recognize their unlimited potential as valued members of society.”

The program will operate under Ford and another journalism professor, Eric Harvey, who will assist with “recruiting, training and working alongside four GVSU multimedia journalism students who will work in participating high schools.”

“Each (multimedia journalism) student will be paired with a College of Education and Community Innovation (CECI) student teacher to assist high school teachers in implementing the curriculum,” Ford said.

The goal is that the high school students will learn from the GVSU students while the GVSU students will benefit from working with them and their teachers in a classroom setting.

“GVSU students work with high school teachers and students to produce short ‘man-on-the-street’ interviews based on PBS NewsHour ‘prompts’ or questions on current issues, and short news stories,” Ford said.

SRL, Ford said, is a very competitive program that selected GVSU as a recipient among many contenders.

“SRL is only able to work with 170 classrooms nationally, none in West Michigan, with a significant waiting list of interested educators,” Ford said.

This grant attracts notoriety for GVSU’s School of Communications and creates more opportunities and resources for students.

“We will be using their techniques to teach (multimedia journalism) students, who will, in turn, teach high school students how to produce award-winning news stories,” Ford said.

The program’s approach to learning relies heavily on hands-on experience; mentoring other students and learning from professionals. Ford said that a student reporting labs coordinator will be hired by WGVU to assist in running the program.