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Lessons from a rookie year teaching business journalism

business journalism professors

Photo by Michel Duarte

Alan Deutschman has spent more than 20 years as a financial journalist – mostly writing about technology and Silicon Valley – for a slew of national publications including Fortune and Vanity Fair. He has also written four books, including an in-depth biography, The Second Coming of Steve Jobs.

In 2010, he took on a new challenge, this time in academia. Deutschman is now the Reynolds Chair of Business Journalism at the University of Nevada in Reno, a role that has him guiding future business journalists.   

And while the transition to academia was welcomed by Deutschman, it was not without unexpected twists and turns. He shared his classroom experience with the Reynolds Business Journalism Professor Fellows in a session called “Reflections on a Rookie Year.”    

alan deutschman

Alan Deutschman

Below are insights Deutschman shared about his first year teaching business journalism:  

The prosaic very quickly led into the profound. “It was exciting to me that they (students) were interested in looking at business in a kind of humanistic way,” Deutschman said.  “When I was trying to give them the nuts and bolts they wanted the philosophy, they wanted the psychology and it was a great introduction to the course.” 

Dealing with inspiration verses perspiration when training business journalists. After much thought about the challenge, Deutschman rented a van and drove students to San Francisco to visit the offices of Facebook, Fortune, and Bloomberg. He said it was inspiring for students to meet accomplished journalists. As a result, the students gained insight into the dedication and focus they need going forward.

Requests for all media, all the time. Halfway through the semester his students asked if instead of just reading long magazine articles they could diversify their media diet. For next year he decided to incorporate different media options throughout the semester. 

Shared governance. From creating a Facebook group used as a forum, to turning students’ leadership issues into case studies, shared governance helped to build a sense of community in the class.

Handing over control. Deutschman says the riskiest action he took was to let students design their own projects matching the level of the course.  He worried about punting his own responsibility, but the students gave themselves assignments and challenges that were far beyond his expectations.

In Biz Journalism Professors, Career tips, Reynolds Week.

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