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Public Editor Munk partnership turns journalist hiring, training on its head

Sylvia Stead is The Globe's first-ever public editor.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

This week, The Globe and Mail and other media are starting a partnership in journalism with the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs which will be a radical departure from the way journalists are normally hired and trained.

Traditionally, newspapers and television stations have hired reporters and editors who have studied journalism. Over the years, they become experts in criminal justice, banking or if they are lucky, they are sent out as foreign correspondents to cover a continent.

The Munk Fellowship in Global Journalism is turning that model on its head by taking brilliant experts in various subject areas and giving them hands-on journalism training. Over the coming months, The Globe will be working with students including two PhDs, one Rhodes Scholar, world-class science experts, including one who has uncovered six new mammals, and experts in aid and corporate social responsibility.

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The head of the program, Robert Steiner, is a former Globe and Mail and Wall Street Journal journalist. "We're complementing the traditional journalism schools by doing something they're not," Mr. Steiner says, "Rather than channelling folks into staff jobs that may or may not exist, we are preparing people to do rigorous journalism autonomously. And rather than starting people off as generalists in a local market, we're tapping into them as highly knowledgeable reporters for a global market. It's our part of the broader experiment that is journalism today."

The nine Munk fellows have survived a boot camp journalism experience with former Ryerson professors Don Gibb and Shelley Robertson and will continue to learn core writing with Ms. Robertson. News judgment is a key part of the curriculum because these fellows will be pitching stories not waiting for assignments. Mr. Steiner and Bernard Simon, formerly The Financial Times correspondent for Canada, will act as their "bureau chiefs" – coaching them on news judgment, pitches and drafts of their stories before the fellows send them to editors. Fellows will also learn advanced interviewing skills from Prof. Andrea Litvack, who teaches clinical interviewing to social workers, along with investigative journalism, basic broadcasting skills, and freelance tradecraft.

It will be fascinating to watch this first-year group, not only to see what they learn about journalism, but what the journalism community will learn from them.

If you want to comment on this, please do so below. Or you can send me an e-mail at publiceditor@globeandmail.com

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