National Security Journalism Initiative

Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Media Communications, a national leader in journalism education for decades, with the assistance of generous McCormick Foundation grants, has expanded that leadership role to national security journalism education.

The school created the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative in January 2009 to provide journalists-in-training and working journalists with the knowledge and skills necessary to report accurately, completely and with context on events and issues related to defense, security and civil liberties. The Initiative aims to expand single courses previously offered on covering conflicts and terrorism and the press and the Pentagon and to include new classes focused on national security, homeland security and civil liberties.

The initiative has three interrelated components, supported by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

1. A sequence of courses that equip graduate and undergraduate journalism students with the knowledge and skills to report on national security issues in ways that have relevance and meaning to a variety of audiences. Courses include the Pentagon, the Press and the People, Covering Privacy and Civil Liberties Post-9/11, U.S. Securities and Civil Liberties Reporting, Covering Conflicts Terrorism and National Security, and Washington national security reporting.

2. The National Security Reporting Project, launched in 2010, that provides scholarships to 10 Medill graduate students who have completed or are near completion of the master’s program to focus their reporting for three on one topic and present their investigative work in ways that model new ideas on engaging audiences. The first effort, Global Warning, on the national security implications of climate change, won a prestigious national award from the Online News Association. The 2011 project on the challenges facing the military reserve component, Hidden Surge, also garnered national attention. Both were published by The Washington Post; the 2010 project also was distributed by McClatchy News Service. The 2012 project on energy security, Oil Change, was published by GlobalPost and featured on The Washington Post’s website.

3. In-service training for working journalists and others working in the national security/communications field that will connect them with the latest research and expertise and facilitate networking. Medill takes advantage of its Chicago, Washington and Qatar locations and distance learning technology to enable wide participation. Over the past several years Medill has offered single courses – some multiple times – on covering conflicts and terrorism; how to court courts martial; and many others. In 2013, the Initiative has begun offering Webinars; the first one was on covering whistleblowers and leaks. It also is co-sponsoring webinars with the Poynter Institute.