With the Internet becoming a major source of news and advertising over the past decade, news organizations are increasingly catering to consumers who favor online media over print publications. That means journalists, through the Internet, are now using multimedia formats, blogs, podcasts and citizen journalist reports to disseminate news and other content that audiences deem useful to them.
Preparing journalism students for this shift to online news and other electronic media means that journalism schools are turning to individuals, such as Sandeep Junnarkar, to teach multimedia storytelling techniques and to explore how interactivity could improve online journalism. A veteran of online journalism since its earliest days, Junnarkar, 42, is now an associate professor at the City University of New York (CUNY) graduate journalism school.
In the mid-1990s, Junnarkar, who was then fresh out of the Columbia University journalism school, helped pioneer online news production while working on the early online editions of The New York Times. Those early experiences included stints as a breaking news editor, writer and Web producer. He later became a reporter and the New York bureau chief for CNET’s News.com, a news Web site that specializes in digital technology. What emerged as critical components in the Internet as a news venue was the use of multimedia storytelling and allowing reader interactivity, Junnarkar notes.
“It seemed to me that the Web wasn’t going to be all that interesting if it just tried to reproduce what was in the newspaper … .I saw the importance of readers’ comments and interactivity,” he says.
Eventually, Junnarkar gravitated to teaching. His expertise in online journalism proved highly attractive to CUNY adminstrators who were organizing the graduate journalism school, which enrolled its inaugural class in fall 2006.
In addition to teaching and writing, Junnarkar has won acclaim as the co-producer of www.livesinfocus.org, a multimedia Web site that reports stories on underreported issues. The Web site’s projects have focused on the treatment of the HIV and AIDS population in India and the impact of incarceration on prisoners’ families in New York state.
“It’s a complex thing these days in journalism in how you view online, collaboration, and all these new frontiers … I think if you look at Sandeep’s background, it’s a perfect map for where journalists need to go,” says Jeff Jarvis, an associate professor and the director of the interactive journalism program at the CUNY graduate school of journalism.
Jarvis says that in addition to gaining solid journalism training and multimedia experience, young journalists have to be flexible and open minded about their careers. “There’s a constant openness, a constant need to experiment and explore, and more than any of that is the willingness and eagerness to collaborate with the public.” Those are the qualities thriving journalists, such as Junnarkar, should exhibit, according to Jarvis.
Earlier this year, Junnarkar was elected president of the South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA). A native of India who grew up largely in Europe and the United States, Junnarkar counts himself as a member of SAJA dating back to the mid-1990s when it was founded by South Asian journalists who were mostly based in the New York City area.
“Several years ago, I got active as a SAJA board member because I thought I could give back some of what I had gotten as a member of the organization,” he says.
Junnarkar’s commitment to journalism diversity motivated him to enlist Stephen B. Shepard, the CUNY journalism school dean, to authorize scholarships established in the name of each of the five national minority journalism associations. The five associations are the National Association of Black Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Native American Journalists Association and SAJA. This fall, four students with minority association scholarships will be enrolling in the incoming journalism class.
Attracting minority students to the CUNY graduate journalism school is “only going to make the profession stronger and our school stronger as well,” Junnarkar says.
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