Hamilton’s Mohawk College suspends first-year journalism program amid ‘turbulent time’ in industry

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Published June 13, 2023 at 3:56 pm

Mohawk College has suspended its first-year journalism program, citing “ongoing low enrolment and graduation numbers.”

Current journalism students, however, will still be able to complete the three-year Ontario College Advanced Diploma in Journalism.

“This difficult decision has been made as a result of ongoing low enrolment and graduation numbers, which has made it financially unviable,” said Bill Steinburg, senior media relations and communications adviser at Mohawk College, in an emailed statement to inthehammer.com today (June 13). “The college will support students currently enrolled in the program to reach their graduation. Students who were expecting to enter the first year of the program in September will have the opportunity to study in other related programs, if they choose.”

For this fall semester, the estimated enrolment for the program was 16 students, Steinburg said. In the first semesters of 2022 and 2021, 20 and 15 students were enrolled, respectively. In fall 2020, 28 students began the first semester of the program. 

Steinburg said the college intends to provide a new program “that addresses the evolving needs of the industry,” though he could not provide a timeline yet on when that will happen.

“We recognize and support the important role that journalism plays in our community and society,” he said. “We will work with industry partners in the field to realign the curriculum and program structure to provide students with the skillsets they need to succeed in this important and challenging field.”

Four years ago, the college also suspended its Broadcast-Radio program to create the “reimagined” Broadcast – Radio and Creative Content program, according to Steinburg. “That program is experiencing renewed success,” he added.

Face of journalism is evolving: professor

Marvin Ryder, associate professor of marketing and entrepreneurship at McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business, believes “Canada will still need journalists and journalism for decades to come.”

But he said the face of journalism is evolving due to economics and new technologies.

“I think this more a comment about the state of journalism in Canada. All media sources (radio, television, newspapers, magazines) have seen employment numbers declining and much repurposing of material,” said Ryder in an email to inthehammer.com. “In other words, a television story can have its audio extracted for a radio story and then that can be posted on a website or Instagram feed and content can be transcribed if print is needed. … Today I see the same story used by these different media outlets.”

The future of journalism is changing with the traditional media of print, radio and television using social media such as podcasts, blogs, websites and TikTok, he said. Larger advertisers are spending less on traditional media and shifting spending to social media, he added.

“It is a turbulent time in journalism,” he said. “New patterns of consumer consumption will emerge but it will take some time.”

Ryder observed the trend with the decrease in the number of journalism jobs, including at local outlets such as The Hamilton Spectator, CHCH-TV and various radio stations.

The journalism industries in Canada and the United States have continued to struggle as advertising moves away from traditional media to online platforms and more people get their news for free or through non-traditional sources. Media also face new online competitors and economic headwinds.

Canada’s largest newspaper publisher Postmedia continued to slash staff in newsrooms and offices, reportedly announcing in January that it was laying off 11 per cent of its editorial staff at nearly all its publications due to the ongoing decline in the journalism industry. In February, J-Source, an online site that monitors news in the industry, reported that more than 100 media jobs in Canada were gone in the first six weeks of 2023. More recently, layoffs were announced at online sports news site the Athletic, which is owned by The New York Times, and Los Angeles Times.

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