The liberal arts portion of a journalism education

Model Curricula for Journalism Education is a 150-page document produced by UNESCO and published in 2007. Its contents are based on work done in 2005 by an international group of journalism educators.

While many details in the document (particularly the recommended books) are now quite out of date, the general principles and recommendations are still solid and useful.

Although my main concern usually centers on digital skills (visual, audio, code) for reporting and storytelling, I was intrigued by these two lists in the UNESCO document (pages 33–34):

Journalism and Society

  • A knowledge of the role of journalism in society, including its role in developing and securing democracy.
  • An ability to reflect on developments within journalism.
  • An understanding of how information is collected and managed by political, commercial and other organizations.
  • An awareness of the international flow of information and its effects on one’s own country.
  • A knowledge of the history of journalism and the news media in one’s own country and the world.
  • A knowledge of news media ownership, organization and competition.
  • A knowledge of the laws affecting the news media in one’s own country and the world.


  • A basic understanding of one’s own country’s system of government, its constitution, system of justice, political process, economy, social and cultural organization, and its relations with other countries.
  • A basic knowledge of the geography and history of one’s own country and the world.
  • A basic knowledge of science.
  • A specialized knowledge of at least one subject area important to journalism in one’s own country.

These are listed under “Journalism Competencies” (page 30) and follow a much longer list labeled “Professional Standards,” which includes research skills, writing skills, and a list with this unwieldy heading:

Skilled use of the tools of journalism in editing, designing, and producing material, for print, broadcast and online media, with an understanding of and ability to adapt to convergence and technological developments in journalism.

I noticed the absence of math skills, statistics, knowledge of economics, and computer programming skills from the lists.

Lacking skills and knowledge in those areas, a journalist is ill-prepared for reporting in today’s world.

Related post: 6 Proposals for Journalism Education Today (July 2011).

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