WWII meets the digital age at SHU

The special topics journalism course, Reporting World War II and Beyond, sends students back in time to the 1940s to report on World War II.

The course is structured in an unorthodox way so that students are researching historical pieces, learning how news organizations produced news, and understanding the time period so that they could write their own pieces.

 

Students report on war using modern journalism techniques. Screengrab via World War 2.0 website

The articles, which vary from breaking news, profiles, features and movies reviews, will be posted on a website, World War 2.0. It launched in December 2016. At the end of the first semester the course was offered.

The idea for the course was first developed about six years ago as the 70th anniversary of World War II approached, Dr. James J. Kimble, associate professor of Communication and the Arts, said. He explained, that his own research which involves 1940s and World War II, pushed him to think about how news would have been projected if the internet had existed in an earlier time period.

Dr. Matthew Pressman, assistant professor of journalism who is trained in history, said he loved the idea when Kimble approached him about the course, as he thought it would combine journalism and history in such a unique and innovative way.

While Seton Hall offers journalism and history courses, including those that combine them, Reporting World War II gives students a chance to produce a news product and learn a new perspective on American lives during the war period.

“I think it’s important for students to appreciate that journalistic practice isn’t static. It changes over time. So it’s useful to see how different reporting was in the past. Much of it, to our ears today, sounds boring, dry, and confusing,” Pressman said. “I’m trying to help the students make it comprehensible, lively, and interesting. It’s the same kind of work you might do as an editor, or as a reporter trying to revise a first draft.”

Pressman added that this time period was chosen as it’s far enough in the past that the reporting is different from today, but recent enough so that students could access material digitally and relate it to what American life was like back then.

“A lot of times, the class is run like a newsroom where the students all sit around and discuss the stories we want to write about for the time period we’ve been assigned that week. It’s a different experience than I’ve ever had in a class,” said Brianna Martin, a senior broadcasting major with a minor in journalism and currently taking the course.

Martin said that she found it fascinating to look at old newspapers from the World War II era and writing articles in a more contemporary way.

“Studying history is itself an essential human task, and these students are doing it in such a way that they are building skills at the same time they are learning about the past,” Kimble, said.

“One learns that humanity’s basic impulses never change, one learns how our predecessors dealt with adversity, and one learns more about grace, beauty, evil, and justice. It’s hard for me to imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to look intently at the past.”

Nisha Desai can be reached at nisha.desai@student.shu.edu.

Author: Nisha Desai

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