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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Medill looking for in applicants for the specialization?

On one level, we are looking for what we have always looked for in the MSJ program: curiosity, strong analytical and writing skills, an interest in having an impact and making the world a better place. But for this specialization, we’re also looking for applicants who are motivated by the challenges of creating new publications, leading interdisciplinary teams and finding the right combination of content, audience and business strategy to build sustainable media products. We love to see students with backgrounds in journalism and/or media, but for this specialization, many kinds of prior experience could be relevant. For example, those with backgrounds in software development, business strategy, marketing, social/community engagement or product design are among our applicants.

What career opportunities will be available?

Some graduates will become entrepreneurs or key players in media startups, but there are many other kinds of opportunities you could pursue. Media organizations of all sizes – from startups to large, established companies – are looking for people who understand all the dimensions of developing media products. They want team members who are comfortable collaborating across disciplines and finding the right blend of content, audience and business. You’ll be prepared for new career paths such as audience development manager, social media manager, content strategist and product manager – or be ready to launch your own new media venture. You’ll also develop skills now needed by editors, producers and managers in media organizations: the ability to communicate, understand and collaborate effectively with software engineers, marketers, designers and the people responsible for business development and revenue strategy. And with the growth of “content marketing,” even companies outside media now need professionals who can develop media products and distribution strategies.

What will I do during my San Francisco quarter?

You will immerse yourself in the startup and technology culture of the Bay Area, learning through classes as well as a part-time internship with a tech or media company in the region. The curricular core is design thinking and research, the proven techniques and approaches for learning and understanding the needs of users and audiences. These include observational/ethnographic research, interviewing for product development and developing techniques for eliciting feedback on product ideas and prototypes. You’ll also learn the business fundamentals required for product development, such as business models, competitive analysis and marketing strategy. Your classes will work on real-world design and research projects for companies in the Bay Area, and Medill will arrange opportunities for you to gain experience working inside the region’s many innovative companies.

What do you mean by "media innovation"?

Media innovation is the creation of real value for an audience or group of users through the development of new publications or media products. This includes digital magazines, sites, apps, newsletters or platforms, as well as tools for media consumers, publishers or content creators. Media innovation takes place in startup companies, but it is also a necessity now for established media organizations because survival requires the regular invention of new products to serve new and existing audiences.

What if I don't see myself as an entrepreneur?

It may be that the entrepreneurial character is something one is born with rather than something learned in school. But developing a startup business requires contributions from a team of people, not just an entrepreneurial leader. The specialization curriculum, especially the NUvention Web+Media class, will give you the experience and skills needed to be a leader inside established media organizations or startups. And we will help you determine if a startup environment is the right one for you.

Will I learn to code?

Medill’s core MSJ curriculum provides foundational coding skills, and the San Francisco quarter will include a hands-on software engineering class. It is certainly possible that with the foundation learned at Medill, you could decide that hands-on programming is a career path for you to pursue. But in teaching these skills, our goal is not to train programmer-developers. It is, instead, to give you enough hands-on technology experience that you understand how software is built and can collaborate effectively with developers. You can certainly learn enough about web and mobile development in our curriculum to create prototypes for a product idea.