A BLOG BY SHANNON FISHER
Most of us actively seek opportunities to make a positive difference in the world. If there were invaluable tools at your disposal that could help you impact public policy – tools taught at the number one public university in America – would you want to use them? Well, you’re in luck! The University of California at Berkeley is offering a self-paced, open-source, free online class via the EdX platform called Journalism for Social Change, and it starts January 19!
The interdisciplinary Journalism for Social Change program, housed at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, teaches the major tenets of Public Policy, Journalism, and Social Work to students concentrating in any of those fields. I interviewed Daniel Heimpel, a lecturer at UC Berkeley and the creator of Journalism for Social Change, on the National Press Club’s Update-1 podcast in the fall and asked him why this combination of disciplines is important in producing effective solution-based journalism.
“The social work students are working in the field in practical internships, seeing stories every day, and they introduce topics journalists might not otherwise encounter,” he said. “The policy folks bring a vision of how you can change things deep into the future, as well as an analytical rigor journalists can apply to their reporting when examining solutions.”
The EdX MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) will impart students with valuable information from these three disciplines, providing a strong knowledge base from which to produce solution-based journalism. This MOOC will communicate research and writing techniques that advocates, activists, or anyone who cares about social and political issues, can use to positively influence public policy and opinion. The course will help writers learn to separate opinion from fact, as well as ways to argue their points in an objective manner backed by data and verifiable anecdotal evidence.
“I think you have to be really clear about stacking your evidence,” said Heimpel. “There’s a big difference in the quality of sources out there. If you report a solution, you have to report on it with equal vigor as you report on the problem. Figure out what the impediments are to that solution and make that part of your story. ”
With America’s vibrantly renewed interest in social justice, this course could not be timelier. Journalism for Social Change will enable students who would otherwise not have access to this information to create an arsenal of tools that can help enact social and political change. To follow the class’ progress and read pieces produced by students as they write about social issues that are important to them, follow the #J4SC hashtag on social media.
But why not take the class yourself? What do you have to lose? It’s free!