I’m working this fall’s common syllabus for “JOMC 153: News Writing,” the introductory class at UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. I’ve created a custom RSS feed for students in all 14 sections to use. But I’m also adding this paragraph:
If you are like most Americans, most of your news consumption comes from television. You may also get much of your news via Facebook or other online news sources. In this class you will learn to become a more critical consumer of news from all sources. As you begin to study journalism and mass communication, you may find it particularly useful to read the print edition of a national newspaper like USA Today or The Wall Street Journal as well as a local paper. If you read news critically, you will be circling words, writing notes and highlighting passages.
Is anyone out there using a tool for annotating digital content that you actually find useful? You don’t need to necessarily be able to share the notes but the notes preferably would be persistent from device to device.
The story of Sohaib Athar is an especially important anecdote precisely because he was accidental journalist.The value of social media isn’t as much about giving a microphone to people who seek it, but about amplifying unheard voices.
In the great debate about the future of journalism and the relevance of journalism schools, the Athar anecdote supports my belief that *every* college student should take a course in journalism. Whether they practice the profession or not, many of them will be “brothers in the crowd” — to borrow a phrase and a scene from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.
At those moments, we don’t need journalists as much as we need people — like Athar — who practice journalistic thinking.
Sitting next to News & Observer editor John Drescher last Friday during a forum about the Triangle’s media landscape, I had to feel a bit sorry for him. Of the nearly 20 representatives of news media in the region, he was the most prominent representative of the mainstream media and drew all the fire from the bloggers, entrepreneurs, do-gooders and pontificators who had him easily outnumbered and whose smaller organizations had often beaten his Goliath newsroom on important stories.
But I also envied Drescher. He was also the only one at the table who had ever dropped $200,000 of his company’s money on an investigation of a state agency. And the only one who knew what it was like to spend four years pinging the government for public records before he had a story solid enough to sell to his subscribers and advertisers.
One other thing made Drescher an enviable character in the Triangle’s media ecosystem. Despite their valid criticisms of increasing gaps in The News & Observer’s coverage of our communities many noted without irony in their voices, the small, independent and non-profit news operations had the most impact on public policy when they got the attention of Drescher’s paper or one of the local television stations.
And that made me realize that if our state is going to retain its generation-long reputation as a home for journalism that gives voice to the voiceless and holds powerful people accountable, then we must find a way to foster dozens of new and diverse tributaries of news and information that flow into the big, slow-moving mainstream media. Without the tributaries, the MSM seems likely to evaporate entirely. Without a larger channel into which they can empty, the tributaries seem likely to overwhelm us with a flood of disconnected datapoints.
Continue reading “Triangle’s Media Ecosystem Needs Tributaries and Mainstream”
With a new semester about to begin on Monday, I wanted to share some of the work done by some of the students in UNC-Chapel Hill’s JOMC 463: Newsdesk (PDF) class last semester. The assignment was this: Do an online profile of a person or organization using interactivity and multiple media. They were limited by producing the story in a somewhat wonky version of a Drupal-based CMS that I had set up for the class.
The bottom line is this: most of this student work was very good, and it’s important to show industry and other journalism students how we’re preparing the next generation to lead change in newsrooms. Students are young and therefore their work is not perfect, but it can be awfully good. Here are three examples, and the reason that each gives me hope for the future of journalism. Continue reading “Examples of UNC’s Online Student Journalism”
A brief story in The News & Observer today notes how journalism education at UNC and Duke are changing. When I spoke with reporter Eric Ferreri a few weeks ago for his story, he asked about the difficulty — and perhaps futility — of teaching “new media” to students who probably can’t remember a world without the Internet.
As Ferreri notes in the story, I think there’s a significant difference between using technology and understanding its social, political and economic implications — just like there’s a difference between driving a car and being able to repair its engine. (This is why it’s still important to teach students HTML.)
The challenge for educators is to get students to begin to reflect in both positive and normative terms about how they communicate in different media environments.
Reflection is a key component in service learning, but it’s also critical to add a level of consciousness to any field that has developed informally and organically. Journalism students don’t need classroom education to BE in the world — they can acquire skills more efficiently just by doing internships. But they do need classroom education in order to EXPLAIN the world and to LEAD it.
Our role as journalism professors in a world where anyone can publish a blog is to develop leadership, not merely train practitioners.
The NCAA basketball game tonight in Detroit between the Tar Heels of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Michigan State Spartans brings us a good illustration of the relative strengths of print and online news.
Be niche. Have very high standards. And find some subscribers to buy it
Good advice for future journalists from Alan Murray, the editor of the Wall Street Journal’s Web site, who gave the Park Lecture at UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication on Thursday night. His approach to online journalism certainly sounded right to me, but what I didn’t hear was any hard evidence that would help support my gut instinct.
The biggest question I still have: Is there any business model for high quality local public affairs journalism?
As yesterday’s Online News Association conference panel about collaboration between universities and newsrooms drew to a close, it was becoming clear that intellectual transactions were just waiting to be made, that a new marketplace must be created. The room had decided that the news biz did indeed have problems and that the academy just might be stocked with the resources needed to solve them.
The only thing standing in the way of better collaboration had been the difficulty so far in matching the problems with the resources. We would need to create a Match.com of journalism innovation, I said, where newsroom leaders could submit RFPs and where educators could post the research and technical resources of their students.
So with 10 minutes left in the panel, I whipped open a Word document and projected it on the screen at the front of the room. I was ready to start brainstorming right there and begin making a quick list of research questions and innovation projects. Oh, the excitement of a panel discussion that would be more than just talk! The bridges that would be built!
But then we hit just one small snag. Of the hundred or so people in the room, about 90 percent were from the classroom. Somehow, on an otherwise unremarkable Friday afternoon in Washington, the Statler conference room at the Capital Hilton had transformed in to an ivory tower. We had built a bridge to nowhere.