Meet Nomi Morris: Contributor to UCSB's New Journalism Certificate Program

Before the arrival of Nomi Morris, one of our university’s most compelling Writing Program professors, UCSB offered only a small portion of Writing courses that were associated within the realm of Journalism. Although the university already acquired a generous amount of on-campus print and online media organizations - such as The Daily Nexus and The Bottom Line -  the lack of programs and writing courses to help initiate the development and improvement of a professional Journalistic skill-set, agitated students who were interested in the topic but could not find any campus resources to fully guide them into getting more knowledge and experience in the professional writing career.

The frustrations of these students and the desire for the university to accommodate to the growing interest in the subject, ultimately led to the implementation of the university’s new Journalism Certificate Program. A program that Professor Morris essentially helped establish in order to provide students with the opportunity to register for courses that can benefit their writing careers as professional journalists and perhaps even enhance an interest for students who have not yet discovered their passion for writing.  

I sat down with Nomi Morris, to talk about her life and career in professional journalism, her contribution to the program and why she hopes students will join and essentially develop a keen interest in Journalism and media.

 

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What are a few of your achievements throughout your experience as a professional journalist?

I had my first professional job as a journalist in Jerusalem for the Jerusalem Post Newspaper which was in English Language Daily. However, I really broke into the field at the Toronto Star Newspaper, the largest newspaper in Canada, where I worked for three and a half years when I was in my 20s. Because I spoke a bit of German, I managed to cover the opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989. After that I decided to move to Berlin and set up as a freelance correspondent, where I ultimately stayed for five years. I was eventually hired as Time Magazines correspondent in Berlin and Central Europe but eventually made the move back to Canada, where I worked for Macleans National News Magazine as the Senior writer for international and deputy world editor. I later made the move to California, got my Masters in Non-Fiction Writing and transferred to teaching while freelancing at the same time, where I actually got to cover the Michael Jackson trial in Santa Maria in 2005 for Newsweek. In terms of the transfer to teaching, I have been the program chair for visual journalism at Brooks Institute and the three years before coming to UCSB, I was teaching at USC the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

What initiated the move to UC Santa Barbara and the start of the Journalism Certificate Program?

The university wanted someone to teach the Writing 126 (Journalism for Web and Social Media) course for the HFA (Humanities and Fine Arts). The dean really wanted to get students involved in producing stuff for the HFA website, so that was a new innovative course that we developed here, designed to create content give students a real professional experience in the media. There was a demand from the students for more journalism, so the writing program was really open to increasing the number of journalism courses. The certificate idea was the fastest most effective way for UCSB to offer a professional journalism experience to students who either want to go to grad school for journalism or just have more certification when they go out and look in the job market. All the journalism instructors on a committee, not just myself, have created this program.

Some of the courses offered are visual, data-driven and entrepreneurial journalism. Why do you believe these are crucial subjects for students who are interested to join the field of professional journalism?

21st century journalism is visually driven. A lot of journalism is in social media, and this is where you can learn how to produce visuals such as video and photography, which are extremely key for someone to gain credential. The data-driven course will teach you how to use Google tools in the service of journalistic work for research and verification and it’s also a way to break news now. You’re able to look into data, research it and see trends that allow you to break news. It’s a growing field within Journalism.

What is the international reporting class and how will it be operated?

Yes! Because you need preparation, you can’t just suddenly go and do the course. It straddles the Spring and the Summer because I have set up five meetings during the spring quarter to prepare your stories and research your stories, then we’ll meet up in Berlin, Germany where we will spend two weeks there reporting on our stories. You will produce individual stories and a group story where you will work together with a team. We’re also going to do social media, such as travel blogs, a publishing page, and our stuff will also be posted on the schools HFA website. After the trip, we will have workshops to completely finish the stories and put them together and have a celebratory evening where we’ll display all of our work amongst our friends and families. And every year will be a different destination, I would like to go to Cuba or Puerto Rico next but I haven’t decided yet. The course is designed to give students the experience of a foreign correspondent.

Why do you think students should join the program? How can they benefit from it?

Whether it’s graduate school or the workforce, even if you don’t end up being a journalist, the skills you’ll learn in the program are media writing and production skills that are useful in business, government, nonprofit. Anyone who is interested in media related skills can see that these can be applied to all of those industries. This is also a very  important moment in American history and even world history. The political climate has made Journalism more important than ever and so the idea that young people like yourselves will be going out into the community and practicing Journalism means that some training and professional values need to be required.

 

If you would like to know more about the Journalism Certificate Program, contact Nomi Morris and get involved! And don’t miss the International Reporting Trip info session on Monday, October 29, 2018 at 4 PM, located in South Hall room 1432.