For the past decade, the profession of journalism has been under intense pressure to adapt to changing business models, technology, and forms of communication. Likewise, journalism education has been under intense scrutiny for failing to keep pace with the industry and inadequately preparing students for a rapidly changing professional environment. Social media has become a nexus for the pressures being experienced by both the profession and academia. This study uses Wenger’s (1998) model of Communities of Practice to consider how a student newsroom functions and how student journalists adapt within a newsroom and on social media. This study used a quantitative self-reported survey (N=334) design to understand the relationship of students’ social media use and newsroom participation, social media use and digital skills, and the differences relationships between demographic variables and the use of social media. Items in the survey were in one of four categories: newsroom participation, social media use, digital skills, and demographics. Results demonstrated that as students take on more responsibilities in a newsroom, the more likely they are to have relationships in the newsroom, to have a voice (in both editorial content and newsroom policy), to share their experiences with newer staff members, and to see the importance of social media use in their newsroom experience. Findings also related to meaning, identity, and practice within Wenger’s (1998) notions of Communities of Practice. Significant correlations among items measuring digital skills are related to length of time on staff, use of social media (e.g. watch breaking news and find story ideas), holding a digital position, frequency of use of social media, and critical knowledge of digital skills (including high-level relationships among libel, audience analytics, and multi-media content). Analysis showed that participants who held primarily digital positions demonstrated patterns of the more sophisticated digital skills.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Learning technologies; Journalists -- Effect of technological innovations on; Social media -- Case studies; Educational technology -- Evaluation

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Fusco Kledzik, Judith;