The overall aim of the journalism program is to enable the student to work creatively in this field, with a thorough understanding of journalism's evolution in American life and society, its potential for enhancing our values and its role in a working democracy.
A student graduating from Western Washington University with a degree in journalism should have a strong liberal arts education, skills in critical thinking and analysis, an aggressiveness in gathering diverse and substantive information that may not be readily available, and an ability to write clearly and reasonably quickly on complex topics. The graduate should have a sense of commitment to see that democratic processes in society are served by the timely disclosure of quality information to the reading, viewing and listening public.
At the heart of the program are its writing courses — newswriting, editing, reporting and feature writing. These courses stress clarity, accuracy and depth of content in a sequence designed to develop professional skills, sensitivity to people and understanding of society.
Journalism majors may choose from three options: News Editorial, Public Relations or Visual Journalism. All require the basic core writing courses and supervised internships, as well as a concentration of 12 credits of upper-division courses (such as history, political science, English, economics, business or the arts) chosen by the student with departmental approval. Communications courses and performing-based courses in Theater and Music will not count towards the 12-upper division concentration credits.
The News Editorial sequence requires between 79 and 81 credits. The Public Relations sequence requires between 79 and 81 credits. The Visual Journalism sequence requires between 84 and 86 credits, including an art or design class.
Majors and minors are required to gain practical experience on student media. News Editorial majors must take at least three newspaper/periodical staff courses, visual journalism majors, public relations majors and journalism minors must take at least two. Most will be with the twice-weekly newspaper, Western Front, but one is required with the twice-quarterly magazine, Klipsun. The Planet, a quarterly magazine offered by Huxley College of Environmental Studies, is an optional staff course. These courses provide peer-group learning, professional guidance and review by journalism faculty advisers.
Finally, majors undertake field internships of at least six weeks working under supervision in print or broadcast newsrooms and editorial offices, in public relations or advertising firms, or other organizations appropriate to the student's area of study. Many students choose to do these in the summer, but it can be completed any time before graduation. Students work closely with mentors, file weekly reports on their experience and might be visited on-site by a faculty supervisor during the internship.
Students progressing through the program are encouraged to travel to a variety of conferences, to enter competitions and to compete for scholarships. For many years, The Western Front, Klipsun and The Planet have consistently won a number of awards from the SPJ Region 10 Mark of Excellence Student Awards.
An informal job referral service is maintained specifically for Western's journalism alumni and graduating seniors. Journalism graduates are sought after to work across the country and in Canada, on newspapers, magazines, in broadcasting, public relations, public information positions, advertising and a variety of related fields.
“We do not count heads before enforcing the First Amendment.”
-Sandra Day O'Connor,
U.S. Supreme Court justice