Winston Cavin, a lecturer who teaches news writing in the school, said the change makes sense.
“Word usage is more relevant to good writing,” he said. “Probably half the spelling errors I see are actually word usage errors with homonyms.”
While the school cited technology like spell-check as one of the reasons it chose to eliminate the spelling portion, that wasn’t the only factor involved in updating the test, Bechtel said.
“Spell-check has actually aided and abetted the word usage problem,” Cavin said.
Bechtel added that students have to be aware that there are things spell check doesn’t detect, depending on the context.
He said the switch to a word usage format will make the test more challenging but will help students become more proficient writers and editors.
Chris Roush, associate dean of the journalism school, said the change received no opposition from the school’s faculty and has garnered alumni support.
“The point is still to teach students how to use language correctly,” said Martha Waggoner, a Journalism Alumni and Friends Association board member and Associated Press correspondent in Raleigh.
“I hope it teaches the difference between ‘their,’ ‘there,’ and ‘they’re’,” she said. “Every time people misuse one of those words, a little piece of me dies.”
Andrew Park, JAFA vice president and the director of global communications and branding at Information Services Group, said it was a smart move on the school’s part.
“There are a lot of things that are harder than spelling that the J-School should be teaching and testing,” Park said.
“I have friends who turned out to be great journalists and great editors that struggled with the test.”
John Frank, another JAFA board member and a political reporter for The (Raleigh) News & Observer, said that while the test revision fits with the new direction of journalism, he doesn’t think the test itself is necessary.
“To be honest, I think you pick it up along the way in the J-School,” Frank said.
“You don’t need a test to show you know how to use spelling and grammar.”
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