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Merrill College

Merrill's Ira Chinoy Wins AEJMC Award for Excellence in Teaching Media History

COLLEGE PARK -- The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) History Division has named Dr. Ira Chinoy, an associate professor at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism, one of five winners of the Jinx Coleman Broussard Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Media History.

Chinoy was honored for innovating the class JOUR200 (Journalism History, Roles and Structures) -- the first course for journalism majors -- to make remote learning effective amid the pandemic. (NOTE: Read below for details on Chinoy’s teaching innovations.)

Ira Chinoy"I never expected that teaching journalism history in a pandemic to freshmen starting college online could be a peak experience, but it was,” Chinoy said. “Our bright and engaged students made the difference.”

Said AEJMC History Division Chair Will Mari: “Despite tremendous challenges, these media historians have demonstrated how to teach under trying circumstances in creative and empathetic ways. The division is proud of their work and I, for one, am excited to learn from them.” 

The History Division and former teaching chair Kristin Gustafson created the competition in 2019 to acknowledge and share best practices publicly that journalism educators and media historians use in their classrooms. The contest was designed to serve three AEJMC History Division goals: (1) help the division grow and diversify by inviting people from other divisions; (2) encourage pedagogies of diversity, collaboration, community, and justice; and (3) support an equal balance of History Division attention to teaching standards, research, and professional freedom and responsibility.  

The History Division will recognize the five winners at its Awards Gala on Aug. 3. The winners of the teaching competition will present 12- to 15-minute hands-on teaching modules at the virtual 2021 AEJMC Conference. 

“Though we cannot connect in person this year, we do all have the opportunity to come together as students of media history pedagogy and to listen to a remarkable set of transformative teaching practices that you might adapt at your universities and in your classrooms,” said Lori Amber Roessner of the University of Tennessee, the division’s teaching chair.

Winners will each receive a $75 prize at the teaching panel at the AEJMC Conference. One prize was to go to a student scholar or team entry with a student; however, there were no student entries this year. In addition to the conference teaching demonstrations, winners may publish their ideas on the History Division’s website and will be featured in the Division’s Clio newsletter.

Chinoy, a Ph.D. alumnus of Merrill College, has been on the school’s faculty since 2001, first as a visiting professor and now as an associate professor. His courses include journalism history, researching emerging media in journalism, the use of archives as a resource for journalists, computer-assisted reporting, and news reporting and writing. He served as Merrill’s associate dean for academic affairs from 2012-14. He is also director of the Future of Information Alliance, created at the University of Maryland in 2011 to foster transdisciplinary dialogue, research and action on pressing information-related issues.

He has 24 years of experience as a journalist at four newspapers: The Washington Post, The Providence (Rhode Island) Journal, The Lawrence (Massachusetts) Eagle-Tribune and The Pine Bluff (Arkansas) Commercial.

As director of computer-assisted reporting at The Washington Post, he was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for a 1998 series on the use of deadly force by the D.C. police. At The Providence Journal, where he was a reporter from 1981-95, Chinoy was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting for coverage of corruption and patronage in the Rhode Island courts.

More on Chinoy's JOUR200 Innovations

Chinoy had 59 students in two sections of JOUR200, the first course for journalism majors, so almost all of his students in Fall 2020 were first-semester freshmen. He wanted to make sure, before the semester started, that each one had reliable internet access and would be able to attend live classes on Zoom twice a week. He exchanged emails with each of them starting in July, and then held one-on-one Zoom chats with them in August before the first class. He said this helped break the ice -- for them and for him -- and set the stage for a variety of course activities meant to foster engagement and participation for the course in its new online format.

He did away with classic, timed midterm and final exams of the type that had previously been given in the classroom. Instead, he had each student keep a “personal learning journal” they created in Adobe Spark, based on weekly prompts geared to what they explored in class and in their readings. Students could then use material in their journals for open-note midterm and final essays they completed on their own time. 

Students also posted to weekly discussions on the course’s online portal, known as ELMS, with prompts that often tied journalism history to current events, including the history of news coverage of epidemics. And they got to know each other in small-group discussions using Zoom breakout rooms during every class session. For each week, there was an “agenda” page in ELMS that had links and prompts for all materials and assignments, plus a brief overview video. And after every class, he posted narrated versions of his slides so students who missed class because of illness or emergencies would not miss out. 

Chinoy created narrated versions of slides showing students how to do research for the profiles each one wrote about a historical figure in journalism, most of which were done as research papers and some of which were done as podcasts. He also arranged optional weekly guest speakers outside of class time so that students from both sections could participate. And for office hours, he held dozens of meetings with students over Zoom each month.

Chinoy also stressed the importance of a collaborative atmosphere among Merrill College faculty teaching other JOUR200 sections plus a broad range of journalism courses at all levels. He explained: “The faculty met regularly over Zoom, starting in late spring 2020 and continuing throughout the summer, to talk about the challenges we knew we would be facing in the fall. We studied best practices for online education. We reached out to get help from campus gurus on structuring online materials. And we had the support of the administration of the college and the university, including a grant program over the summer to foster innovation."  

Chinoy said his teaching assistants, senior Audrey Widodo and sophomore Amanda Hernández, were a big help in organizing the course’s “media participation project,” a long-standing feature of JOUR200 that gives new journalism majors a taste of journalism on campus by getting involved with the many student-run news organizations. 

In anonymous course evaluations at the end of the semester, one of Chinoy’s students wrote, “I thoroughly enjoyed this course. I came into the semester thinking that this class would be boring, given it was a history class, but it ended up being my favorite class.” Another said, “Professor Chinoy … made this class so amazing. He created a safe space and helped us transition from high school to college life.”

For more information, contact:
Josh Land

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