Assistant Professor, Department of Mass Communication
Students showing up for John Kirch’s news reporting class enter more of a newsroom than a classroom.
Kirch, a former newspaper reporter, is the editor. Students are staff writers.
Together they produce The Baltimore Watchdog, a news website that enables aspiring journalists to get real-world experience covering Baltimore County and Baltimore City.
In order to learn how to write for a news organization, says Kirch, “you just have to do it.”
The Baltimore Watchdog makes that possible.
Students go out into the community to hunt down scoops and interview subjects. Then they write up news stories, profiles and features.
“Editor” Kirch offers tips and critiques, but if you hand him a piece that isn’t newsworthy, he’s going to nix it. Do a good job, and you get published on the site.
Byline and all.
Kirch says that this approach gives students a taste of “what it feels like to be professional journalists.”
Partly because once a story makes it to the site, there’s an actual readership.
The assistant professor pumps out content through his personal social media along with Twitter and Facebook accounts he created specifically to promote The Baltimore Watchdog. Students, Kirch reflects, are highly motivated to work hard when they see their articles liked and retweeted. One recent piece even got a comment from a reader in Japan.
Plus, students leave the class with clips for their portfolios — a leg up with potential employers.
Towson University’s big school resources and small class sizes create an environment where Kirch and his colleagues in mass communication and communication studies can offer innovative experiences like The Baltimore Watchdog that prepare students to succeed in a competitive job market.
“Our students get an excellent education,” says Kirch, and “a lot of personal attention.”