Who The Folk?! Elisia Cohen

Today we talk with Elisia Cohen, who is the Director of the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Minnesota AND – more importantly, perhaps – one of the new members of the board at Jewfolk. We talk to Elisia about educating the next wave of journalists, why she found a niche in health reporting, and how good journalism can make a difference in the 24-hour news cycle we live in, in this week’s Who The folk?! Podcast.

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You’ve been in town for a couple of years now you are the director of the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communications, correct?

I was hired after a national search about 22 months ago. I was at the University of Kentucky for 10 years and was at Saint Louis University before that.

What’s so what’s been the biggest adjustments here from the relatively southern life of Kentucky?

When we were in St. Louis we had a corner house and we have a corner house here and we swore we wouldn’t buy one. My husband gets out early every morning to dig out the corner sidewalks so the kids can get on the school bus. We now have different stories about winter living than we ever imagined we would we would have. The Twin Cities has a very large Jewish community; I’ve lived in Los Angeles previously about I would say that this is probably the largest Jewish community that I’ve been a part of in my adult life. I was looking nationally at a variety of different opportunities; my daughter is in elementary school and so I definitely was thinking about moving from Lexington, Kentucky, before she entered middle school and so when we were thinking about where to live that Twin Cities definitely had appealed for that community and for all of the arts and entertainment. We love big cities but we also wanted a really livable city.

Was academia a route you were always interested in?

I was really interested in research and writing. I thought I would end up going to law school but then I had a couple of professors who talked to me about graduate school. I went to a master’s program at Wake Forest University, and then I went out to southern California for my Ph.D. I really figured that if I didn’t like the doctoral program, that I would be in one of the largest media cities in the country and I would just find a job and it would be okay. I really was passionate about looking at problems in the media and communication and everyday life and I ended up doing a lot of research around how people turned to the media after 9/11. Then I really got tired of kind of political communication and they’ve more my research into the area of health which is where I stayed for a while. I never thought I would really be an academic administration either, but I enjoy working with young faculty and kind of helping them develop their career talents to thinking strategically about the future of journalism and communication from a school like the Hubbard school was just a really attractive opportunity.

How do you see the future not just of journalism but how we train the next wave of journalists in the 24-hour media world that we live in?

I think the principles of journalism education haven’t changed, in that it is a profession with certain standards and norms and kind of ethical guidelines. However, we are training students for the jobs of the future, and we’re also training students really more broadly in other major programs in our school in areas like content management and strategic communications, not just the old-fashioned advertising or public relations. Most of our students have a variety of multimedia production skills, so they’re both trained in the liberal arts and critical thinking, but they’re also well-skilled as creators and content developers. To use a hockey metaphor, they’re moving to where the puck is going to go.

You’re adapting to the north just fine with your hockey metaphors.

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