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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 and communication strategies. 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 and product design have chosen this program.

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. Increasingly, creating media products is essential for companies of all kinds, because businesses need to create and distribute content to attract attention and build relationships with customers and other stakeholders.

What do you mean by "content strategy"?

This term is used to describe the way companies of all kinds plan, create and deliver content to accomplish business goals. While companies used to rely on news media to communicate their stories, all companies can now use their own communication channels -- including websites, email newsletters and mobile apps. The job of a content strategist is to understand the information/entertainment needs of a group of users, create content that addresses those needs, deliver the content and generate engagement, and measure its impact on achieving business goals. In marketing, this process is sometimes called “content marketing.” But all companies, even media organizations, now need content strategy, and content strategists.

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 anyone can learn how to think like an entrepreneur, and even established companies need people with entrepreneurial mindsets. The San Francisco quarter will immerse you in the Bay Area’s startup culture and expose you to the way entrepreneurs identify user needs and business opportunities. 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. Participating in NUvention Web+Media will help you earn a graduate minor in entrepreneurship. And the class 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.

How can I learn more about students’ experiences in the specialization?

Read more about students’ experiences on the Medium.com channel for the specialization.  For occasional email updates, sign up for the Medill media innovation newsletter.

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