Professionalizing media talent in digital era

Ying Tianyi
Ying Tianyi
Although we cannot tell whether our graduates keep to our standards for their entire lives, we make our values extremely clear. These values are not just a motto.
Ying Tianyi
Ying Tianyi

Editor's note:

In the Internet era, a paradigm shift in communication has created a need to reflect on the cultivation of media talent. University journalism departments worldwide are confronted with a transition towards multidisciplinary education that exposes students to a wider range of opportunities.

During a recent forum at Fudan University, Olivier Guillet, associate dean of Sciences Po School of Management and Innovation, shared his thoughts with Shanghai Daily staff writer Ying Tianyi on the school’s cooperation with Fudan Journalism School on the double-master’s program “Communication and Media.”

Q: What principles does your school instil in students facing clashes between economic activities and social responsibility?

A: Social responsibilities should go hand-in-hand with making money. Productivity is the nature of business, so no business school would oppose economic profits.

However, what we try to do is to get away from 1980s paradigms like the movie “Wall Street” by Oliver Stone. Greed was good in the 1980s, but is not so good today. We need a new kind of greed that’s not only about financial success, but also about the common good.

My university, Sciences Po, is good at dealing with such paradoxes. Although we cannot tell whether our graduates keep to our standards for their entire lives, we make our values extremely clear.

These values are not just a motto. They irrigate our teaching at every moment. We call them the three “C”s.

The first “C” stands for complexity. There has been criticism of business schools that they impart an overly simple vision of the world to their students. Ranked No.4 in social sciences in the world, Sciences Po aims to train our students to understand a world full of complexity.

The second “C” represents creativity. Nowadays nothing can be achieved without innovation. Perhaps creativity is already a common concept in industries like communication and advertising, but in economic areas, creativity is inadequate.

The last “C,” namely the common good, is the DNA of Sciences Po. For a long time, success was primarily seen as individual, financial and material.

Our mission is to foster a vision of success in which the common good is central. In other words, success without common good is not success.

After instilling these values in our students, we focus on professionalization. Primarily, most business schools train doers, but we want to cultivate talent that both does and thinks.

Q: Sciences Po has many programs catering to diverse backgrounds and needs. What do you particularly expect from cooperation with China?

A: China is a genuine innovator today. Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know China.

Perhaps China once got most of its inspiration from the West, but now we see a lot of Chinese-born innovation going on.

We expect many things. Our school knows how thirsty our French and international students are for a better understanding of Chinese issues.

In Europe, we can’t talk about innovation without looking at what is going on in China right now. Therefore, what we expect from our Chinese partner, Fudan University, is a gateway to Chinese culture and business.

Q: As a school for tomorrow’s entrepreneurs, why would you collaborate with the Fudan journalism school? Is there an inherent connection between business and journalism?

A: The definitions of journalism and communication are quite different in France and China. In France, journalism is something really specific. Most institutions are looking at journalism from a pure editorial point of view. An academic background and a press card validated by the state are absolutely required if one wishes to work as a journalist.

Our style of journalism doesn’t encompass communication. Communication in France is a content-oriented industry, more specifically, creative content. The vast majority of our communication professionals aren’t journalists, rather, they work for advertising agencies or communication department of companies, producing content to promote services.

There is a lot of complementarity between the Fudan school and our school: On one hand, we provide a specific approach to professionalization through a strong network with the French creative industry such as movies, video games and advertising. On the other, Fudan is very respected for its academic research in journalism. It will be beneficial to expose our students to deep academic training.

Q: The digital revolution and technological change pose a threat to traditional journalism. How do we adapt to that?

A: I believe that we are in a time of great accessibility of knowledge. This creates wider opportunities.

The digital revolution is definitely going to impact on jobs in communication and management. That’s why we place the digital revolution at the heart of our courses to make sure that our students understand how to transform an organization using digital tools.

At Sciences Po, “Medialab” helps researchers make the most of the data provided by digitalization. Composed of both academics and engineers, Medialab harnesses digital data to advance media studies.

Our school collaborates a lot with Medialab, because we believe that digitalization is an opportunity for making intellectual and technical content widely accessible — not like conversations between experts, but experts enlightening a wider audience.

Q: In terms of their career prospects, how can tomorrow’s media professionals at Fudan benefit from your school?

A: First of all, our school is very well established in professionalization — many of our professors are top actors in communications and media. Our strong alumni network makes it possible to expose students to many CEOs in the classroom. Chinese students will be able to get ahead of the game by meeting these people on campus.

Secondly, the creative approach is always at the core of our teaching.

For instance, our school recently invited Wallace Chan, a renowned artisan jeweler, for a conference on the poetic aesthetics of jewelry creation, to inspire the students and make them realize that their career can be linked to a variety of areas.

Thirdly, young students tend to see journalism as something purely intellectual and idealistic. But at some point, when they are in charge of a magazine or a paper, management and marketing skills might be necessary. That’s also something we can offer.

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