The campus newspaper has for generations been a haven for aspiring journalists looking to sharpen their skills and prepare for careers as writers, reporters, editors, photographers, or designers. For decades Christianity Today has welcomed interns to its various publications to offer these students some experience in the field, and in the past three years the informal connection between Christianity Today and Wheaton College, which sits just two miles south of CT's offices in Carol Stream, has reached back into the classroom where students first learn the skills they will bring to the workplace.
Christianity Today first connected with Wheaton on internships and occasional teaching and guest lecturing on journalism and publishing topics after moving from Washington, D.C. to the Chicagoland area in the late 1970s. So when Wheaton College Communications department chair Dr. Ken Chase and Dr. Christy Gardner, former Wheaton professor and former CT assistant editor/news, were shaping a journalism certificate program in 2011, the college recruited CT senior editor, global journalism Tim Morgan as program coordinator. Morgan brings to the program a Master's degree in journalism from Boston University and a background in teaching English in addition to over 30 years of both secular and Christian field experience, For the past two years, he's been administering the certificate program, which requires 24 credit hours in journalism-related coursework, teaching classes as needed, supervising and advising interns, and providing coaching to the college's student newspaper staff.
The heart of the program, according to Morgan, is a for-credit, graded internship. This past summer, the program had interns at Christianity Today as well as in Chicago, Germany, Los Angeles, the Twin Cities, and San Francisco. This semester students are interning at Media Associates International and WBEZ/Chicago, among other publications and news outlets.
The program continues to grow and develop with each year. In 2012, Allison Althoff (a Wheaton alum) finished her MSJ at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and returned to Christianity Today, where she had completed an internship, as associate editor of Today's Christian Woman and also as an assistant to Morgan in the Wheaton Journalism program. In the Spring of 2013, Morgan and Althoff taught the college's first-ever Internet Journalism course and the students designed and launched their own website: www.MillennialInflux.com for their articles. The idea, according to Morgan, was for "a website by, for, and about Millennials; it's not explicitly Christian or faith-based, but it does address faith issues all the time."
The program focuses on immersing students in the practical demands of the field. "We want them to stop thinking of themselves as 'students,' and start thinking of themselves as 'working journalists,' says Althoff. In the course of one semester, Morgan estimates students will probably write more than they ever have before in a concentrated time frame-in some cases over 10,000 words in one semester. The goal is to bring the classroom and the newsroom as close together as possible. Students as much as possible function like working journalists: pitching story ideas, covering beats, conducting editorial budget meetings, contributing to brainstorming sessions, etc. The overall goal: for students to be able to research, report, write, produce/publish, and promote articles using traditional methods, new technology, and social media.