Journalism involves storytelling, curiosity, and good writing. It thrives in the newsroom, but that’s not the only direction it can take you. Calvin English and communication professor Jesse Holcomb’s own career has involved journalism in the nonprofit world—both inside and outside of the newsroom but always with the goal of equipping people with knowledge to help them navigate their world. Now Prof. Holcomb teaches these skills in the classroom, enabling students to be expressive and serve their community from all kinds of posts.
The changing rules
Journalism is a vocation that has never been more important or more embattled. Meeting the challenges of the digital age is one of Prof. Holcomb’s specialties. In fact, he has helped set the standard for journalism’s digital future by advising numerous institutions, including the New York Times team that produced the highly influential New York Times Innovation Report and White House communication staff within the Obama administration.
Prof. Holcomb has also done research at prestigious institutions like Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, the Institute for Nonprofit News, and the Pew Research Center, where he was associate director of research before joining Calvin. This makes him one of the best qualified people around to give students a sense of the industry and how to succeed.
Calvin students have even gotten to work with Prof. Holcomb on his latest project with the Gallup Organization and the Knight Foundation. They research public opinion on trust, media, and democracy. The focus, he says, is on solutions and illuminating the way forward.
The courage to meet reality
Journalism is not easy. Prof. Holcomb knows this firsthand. It means knocking on doors, asking uncomfortable questions, and amplifying voices that don’t normally have access to power. That’s why Prof. Holcomb loves teaching Calvin students.
“I love seeing students being animated by the idea that they can do a very bold and brave and sometimes subversive thing—because journalism can be that.”
Calvin University is where you can discover how good journalism can draw energy and courage from Christian faith. For Prof. Holcomb, Calvin has been a place to explore Christian faith and think critically about it, too.
“It has been such a privilege to be around other faculty members who are unafraid, who feel emboldened to ask any question. In some ways, it’s their faith and their grounding that emboldens them to be unafraid.”
The advantage of practice
As the advisor for Calvin’s student newspaper, Chimes, Prof. Holcomb encourages students to be unafraid outside of the classroom, too. Chimes writers regularly intern at newspapers and multimedia outlets. And Prof. Holcomb’s students have gone on to work at CNN and Wood TV in Grand Rapids.