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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Courses on entrepreneurship and management arrive at Brazilian universities' journalism programs



Renowned university journalism programs across Brazil will open courses on entrepreneurship, management and business from now until 2018, and many have already included the content into their curricula.

This is the case at public universities, such as Universidade de Brasília (UnB), Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC), Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Universidade Federal de Uberlândia (UFU), as well as private schools like Cásper Líbero, ESPM and PUC in Rio Grande do Sul. Universidade de São Paulo (USP), linked to the government of the State of São Paulo, also will have material on entrepreneurship in journalism that is expected to begin in 2020.

Students at Idear, a multidisciplinary center for entrepreneurship at PUC-RS that was launched in August 2016

In part, the inclusion of these classes into coursework is motivated by the new curriculum guidelines for journalism programs – approved by the National Educational Council in September 2013. The document serves as a guideline for journalism programs, but each college has autonomy to assemble its own curriculum.

According to the resolution, universities had two years – by 2015 – to adapt to the new guidelines, which has led several colleges to recently reformulate their curricula. Others, however, are late and have yet to implement the changes.

One of the recommendations from the new guidelines deals with entrepreneurship. The resolution states that the college should “emphasize, in training, the entrepreneurial spirit” of the student, in order to be able to “design, execute and evaluate innovative projects,” among other things.

“The tendency is for programs to adopt these courses to suit the new guidelines, especially internet entrepreneurship. It is a time of change in the coursework,” Mirna Tonus told the Knight Center. She is a journalism professor at UFU and former president of the National Forum of Teachers in Journalism (FNPJ) when the guidelines were approved in 2013.

In addition to meeting the new guidelines, the inclusion of these subjects in the curriculum is fundamental to preparing the students for the new realities of the market, according to professors and coordinators consulted by the Knight Center. In an environment of shrinking newsrooms and with jobs that are more precarious, students find it difficult to find a formal job. More than 500 press professionals were laid off in 2016 in Brazil, according to a survey by Comunique-se.

However, many programs still prepare students to be employees of large journalism companies. “But this is a market that does not exist anymore, at least not in the way that colleges see the market,” said Jorge Tarquini, professor of ESPM, Metodista and Cásper Líbero in the area of business, entrepreneurship and journalism management.

Journalist and professor Jorge Tarquini

Tarquini, who held executive positions at the editorial house Abril, said that knowledge of entrepreneurship and management is important for any journalist, even as an employee of a company. He cited the case of editors, who need to hire collaborators, to buy photos and articles, and to manage an editorial budget.

“I learned all this the hard way, I’m sorry I didn’t have it in college. A journalist does not know how much it costs to do a story, that’s absurd. We’re still graduating people who say, ‘I only write, I only create, I only report,’” said Tarquini, who is also the creator of company Scribas.

The entrepreneurship courses are seen as a way to broaden the horizons of professional activity and to give more autonomy to students. For professor Ana Cecília Nunes, who teaches entrepreneurship and innovation in the journalism program at PUC-RS, the college has the obligation to present a wide range of opportunities to students.

“We think of college as something that closes doors: I’m going to do journalism and be a reporter. But it has to open paths. He [the student] has to leave university thinking: ‘I can do all this, what do I want?’” she said to the Knight Center.

Nunes said universities need to move from a concept of employability to “workability.” “We always debate editorial independence, but we need to think about the journalist’s independence, so he can have a voice outside of traditional companies. Journalist is not just a content producer, he can be a creator, an analyst, a manager.”

Crisis of the business model

In addition to the advantages for students, the creation of entrepreneurship and management courses in colleges can foster solutions for the current crisis for journalism business models.

“When there are many professionals with this training and profile, this will facilitate the emergence of new projects. Also because these young people have already been born in the digital environment and have a lot of creativity in this area,” said Maria Elisabete Antonioli, coordinator of the journalism program at ESPM, to the Knight Center.

In the same way, Tarquini pointed out that current students already consume news in a different way and, therefore, are not attached to traditional models of journalism, like other generations. “We just need to sensitize them to see business opportunities in this universe where they already travel with ease,” he said.

The possibility for students to think about alternatives in this crisis also calls into question the role of universities. For Cristiane Costa, coordinator of the journalism program at UFRJ, colleges should work increasingly as laboratories of good practice, where students can experiment, make mistakes and learn what works.

“Journalism can be reinvented within universities, but for that, they have to rethink themselves. The student has to be able to experiment in college, without the pressure of time and money. In the market, if you get it wrong, your company breaks,” she said to the Knight Center.

UnB, UFU and UFSC have already implemented the new curriculum and will have at least one compulsory course on entrepreneurship until 2018. In an interview with the Knight Center, the director of the College of Communications of UnB, Fernando Oliveira Paulino, said that the college will stimulate debate on the theme "in an interdisciplinary way in other courses, research and extension activities.

UFSC follows the same line. "We will give ideas of project management and development, encourage students to use technology in favor of journalism. This will also be worked on in courses of webdesign and advanced webdesign," said Rita Paulino, the university's journalism coordinator, who holds a PhD in Engineering and Knowledge Management and has applied to teach the new material.

At USP, the new curriculum began in the first half of 2017. As the course on entrepreneurship is expected to be taken at the end of the program, it should be implemented in 2020. "Today this is vital for journalism, which is a profession that is increasingly done in an individualized way, you can have a blog, be a freelancer and manage your own career,” said André Chaves de Melo Silva, coordinator of USP's journalism program.

At Idear, a multidisciplinary center for entrepreneurship at PUC-RS, students go through six months of orientation
 

UFRJ has not yet implemented the new curriculum, which should happen in 2018 – the new coursework should include a compulsory class and some electives on the subject, according to Costa.

Cásper Líbero has also not carried out its curricular reform, but a new class on entrepreneurship is planned for 2018. Currently, the content is approached through “Administration of Editorial Products.”

The college plans to open an incubator in 2018 and to stimulate entrepreneurship in their final projects, according to journalism coordinator Helena Jacob. "We want to encourage students to do projects during graduation semester that can become a reality and generate income," she said in an interview with the Knight Center.

 “Entrepreneurial Ecosystem”

In the case of ESPM, since the program is fairly new (it was created six years ago), the coursework already included two mandatory classes on management, entrepreneurship, business and planning. The college also offers an optional laboratory, EmpreendimentoJor. "If the student has an idea, he is advised by a teacher for six months. Then he can take the project to the ESPM incubator," Antonioli explained.

The PUC-RS journalism program follows an “entrepreneurship track,” with content and activities throughout the curriculum, according to Nunes. The college has already undergone restructuring and a year ago incorporated created two compulsory courses on the topic.

Ana Cecília Nunes, professor at PUC RS

The first seeks to stimulate the student to have ideas. "He has the first contact with the possibility of creating something. We teach innovation tools, empathy map, design thinking," Nunes said. Already in the second class, the students put the idea on paper and develop the financial part. "We show business models, crowdfunding of news, the market of readers and advertisers, the free model, among others," the teacher said.

The content, however, is present in other courses. "In press relations, for example, they work on creating their own press relations company. In convergent journalism, they learn the basics of programming and develop an application. The goal is to form a path for the student, so the classes connect," Nunes said.

In addition to the mandatory coursework, students can participate in Idear, a multidisciplinary entrepreneurship center at PUC-RS that launched in 2016. At the center, they go through six months of mentoring and workshops. Then they go to the university’s incubator, Raiar.

"The project can last two to three years in incubation. We have several laboratories, of creativity and innovation, of prototyping, of technology transfer," Nunes said. "It's an ecosystem of entrepreneurship."



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