The University of Rhode Island offers a class that utilizes The Good Five Cent Cigar newspaper utilized as a teaching instrument throughout its lessons.
The class, PRS 320 Strategic Media Relations, is a required course for Public Relations majors, and is taught by Hollie Smith and Lisa Bergson in the department. Smith has been teaching the class since she began working at URI four years ago. Its goal is to help public relations students become more acquainted with the journalism field and how it works.
“The point of the class is to help public relations students get a better understanding of the journalism field, and how to work more effectively with journalists.” Smith said.
Smith includes weekly newspaper articles from the Cigar to quiz her students on the current events going on at URI.
“One thing that is important for public relations students, and pretty much all students in any field to know, is current events going on in the world around them,” Smith said. “So, we want students to understand what is going on here, locally, on campus, within the state of Rhode Island, within the United States and also globally.”
Students are expected to read the articles in each issue and watch the newcasts when they come out, so that they can be prepared for weekly current events quizzes.
“It helps them to keep their eyes and ears open to what happens in the world around them.” Smith said.
Students are also encouraged to engage with the media. This is done by assignments which require the writing of letters to the editor. Students are then given extra credit if the letters are published in the newspaper.
Students in the class explained that they are learning valuable lessons about the outside world and about the field experiences of journalists.
“In PRS 320, I learned a lot about the news cycle and strategic ways to interact with the media. I now have a lot of respect for the students that run the Five Cent Cigar,” said Meghan Ellis. “Turning out content continuously like they do is tough. I appreciate the work that they put in to keep students informed about things that are happening within and outside of campus.”
Another student explained that the dynamic of the class helps students to gain experience in many different areas including public speaking and working with others.
“The class itself was multi-layered, with PR writing assignments outside of class and timed ones in class, along with current events quizzes that got me in the habit of reading the news more than ever, something everyone our age should be doing,” Gabrielle Gangi said.