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November 16 2011

21:08

In Journalism Class, Think Visceral

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"Beyond J-School 2011" is sponsored by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, which offers an intensive, cutting edge, three semester Master of Arts in Journalism; a unique one semester Advanced Certificate in Entrepreneurial Journalism; and the CUNY J-Camp series of Continuing Professional Development workshops focused on emerging trends and skill sets in the industry.

This week on MediaShift, we're exploring the moving target that is teaching journalism. Stay tuned as we offer tips, tools and insights on educating tomorrow's journalists.

Every semester I conduct a small experiment with the undergrads in my Journalism in the 21st Century course. On the day devoted to discussing media consumption, they walk into class and I ask for their cell phones. They blink, then laugh, then gape as I collect their phones and pile them in a corner behind me.

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They're not allowed to use cell phones during class, so it really shouldn't matter where the handsets are for the next hour and 15 minutes. Yet I can tell with every furtive corner-ward glance (to say nothing of the twitching if one of the phones beeps or buzzes), that students are in serious tech-withdrawal.

The best part is, they can tell too.

Yes, they also study Pew Research Center data chronicling Americans' news habits, and they log their own habits for self-study and comparison. They even read about some of the neuroscience behind the brain's dependence on info gadgets. But my hope is that the in-class experiment is visceral enough to help cement the lesson.

As a college educator in the 21st century, I am always trying to think visceral. We know that students increasingly crave stimulation, surprise and interactivity, but we deliberately push against the current. We think students benefit by being forced to focus on something -- anything -- that isn't byte-sized. We think we are lowering our academic standards if we cater to ever-shrinking attention spans.

In many ways, we are right.


But we're also kidding ourselves if we don't acknowledge the changing needs and habits of our target audience. They might engage enough to pass the class, but I worry about what stays with them once the semester is over. It's worth trying to attach a memorable image or immersive experience to the lessons I would have taught anyway -- just in case.

Here are some things worth trying:

Tune in

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Thinking visceral usually involves teaching visual. There was a time when this meant composing a PowerPoint presentation. It's graphic. It's colorful. Sometimes it's even animated, if you can figure out how to swoop text around. But today's students are so inured to stimulants that it is simply their version of a chalkboard: two-dimensional, text-heavy and often boring.

You can try spicing up your PowerPoint presentations, or you can try a different visual route altogether.

I have journalism students read scholarly work by sociologist Manual Castells about the shifting powers of communication in what he calls the "Network Society." We then talk in class about the vertical structure of top-down, Industrial Age mass media and the horizontal structure of today's all-access, Information Age media. I could (and I have) used PowerPoint to highlight Castells' main themes. But I have better success illustrating them through a series of short scenes from journalism-related shows and films, culled from YouTube and DVDs.

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We start with Charles Foster Kane in his newsroom in "Citizen Kane," then move onto Bob Woodward chasing down a lead in "All the President's Men" (the scene I show is described here), then news staffers gathering for a grim announcement in the last season of HBO's "The Wire." If there's time, I squeeze in a short clip from the 2009 film "State of Play." After each one, I ask students: Is this depicting a vertical communication system, a horizontal system, or some convergence of the two? Who holds the power in this system? What is their pursuit?

Such scenes help crystallize the power shift I am trying to track, and become quick reference points as students process the idea that they have unprecedented power and responsibility in the Network Society.

I try a similar approach when we get to the resurgence of partisan journalism. Students often say they don't understand how the opinionated bluster of a Bill O'Reilly or a Keith Olbermann can draw large audiences. This time, I go for the visceral first by having them watch some video clips for homework. I choose a "straight" news interview with a direct participant in the story, a commentary on the issue by a conservative media figure, and another one by a liberal counterpart. The more bluster the better.

The next day in class, I have students quickly say what they remember from the clips. Almost always, the memories are of the commentators' name-calling or insults. (When I did this once with the proposed Islamic Center in lower Manhattan, only one student recalled the dry but informative CNN interview with the center's own imam, but only to point out anchor Soledad O'Brien's "rude" interruptions.)

In this way, students live the lesson before they study it. When they then read research on higher retention of opinionated versus straight news, they can't question why people gravitate toward an O'Reilly type, because they've done it themselves.

Get out

Teaching visual doesn't just mean bringing multimedia into the classroom. We have the opportunity to bring students into the subject matter because we are studying a living, breathing profession. I can almost hear the jokes about life support or breathing tubes, and I understand. Yes, newspapers are contracting and in some cities shuttering, but the number and variety of media companies have only grown in the digital age. Students have more to study than ever before. Plus, we have two advantages when trying to arrange such field trips: Journalists usually are happy to evangelize to future generations, and they happen to already believe in the concept of transparency.

And in any case, it doesn't have to be limited to media businesses. My students tour The New York Times every semester, but they also see the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. They see grad students, high-tech equipment, and professors whose work they have read for class. It's just the right blend of the familiar and the aspirational.

Own it

If part of your plan is to teach students that they have unprecedented power in today's media world, then let them feel the weight of that power.

Many journalism graduate schools are doing a great job of incorporating business education and entrepreneurship into their programs. Why not give undergrads an early taste? Have students formulate business plans for their own media companies, then pitch their ideas as if their classmates are investors. With the Knight News Challenge and other start-up funding out there, you never know what kind of initiative this will spark in students.

For more advanced students, why not have them cultivate a real product? Using a San Francisco State University course as a model, I have students create a WordPress blog on a topic of their choosing, then spend the semester posting text, photos, audio, video, mapping and other digital content to their site. They must market their blogs through social media, and track their success through web analytics. They are free to continue or disable the blogs after the semester is over, but at least they have a practice run at managing their own journalistic content.

Again, these ideas are meant to supplement, not replace, the lesson plans of any journalism or media course. I don't want my students to simply pass my class. I want them to think differently about the way they produce and consume media in their own lives. If that means pushing more visceral experiments and experiences into the class calendar, it's worth it.

Alexa Capeloto is a journalism professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/City University of New York. She earned her master's degree at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, and spent 10 years as a metro reporter and editor at the Detroit Free Press and the San Diego Union-Tribune before transitioning into academia.

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"Beyond J-School 2011" is sponsored by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, which offers an intensive, cutting edge, three semester Master of Arts in Journalism; a unique one semester Advanced Certificate in Entrepreneurial Journalism; and the CUNY J-Camp series of Continuing Professional Development workshops focused on emerging trends and skill sets in the industry.

Get the weekly Journalism Education Roundup email from MediaShift

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September 13 2010

19:16

NYC J-Schools Take Divergent Paths on Training, Hyper-Local

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

Universities around the country have had to shift the approach of their journalism programs to accommodate a quickly changing media landscape. New York City's journalism schools, in particular, are working to rethink their offerings and adapt to the new world.

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"The challenge inherent to journalism programs today is like taking a bowling ball and trying to hit a fast-moving target," said Adam Penenberg, NYU faculty member and longtime online journalist. Penenberg is teaching a new undergraduate course for NYU this fall about the essentials of entrepreneurial journalism, with topics like managing analytics and using a Twitter account. "It's very difficult for curriculum to change quickly," he said.

As Jay Rosen told MediaShift editor Mark Glaser in the latest 4 Minute Roundup podcast, journalism schools had traditionally been very platform-specific, with students majoring in "broadcast" or "print."

Schools are trying though. The hacker-journalist and journo-entrepreneur are finding homes in programs like Columbia's Master of Science Program in Computer Science and Journalism or in CUNY's forthcoming entrepreneurial journalism graduate program. These cross-disciplinary degrees equip journalists with more than a background in a particular medium.

"Every student needs to grasp the entire puzzle of innovation," said Rosen. "Everything from business models and the nature of the web to involving the community and using multimedia."

Increasingly, universities are looking to project-based curriculum to teach students not only how journalism works now, but how it might survive in the future.

This year both the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute launched collaborations with the New York Times on two of its "The Local" hyper-local sites to explore the questions our news media must answer as it seeks to reboot itself and as journalism schools struggle to expose their students to the full puzzle of innovation. CUNY took over operation of The Local - Fort Greene in January and NYU's start-up The Local - East Village (LEV) goes live today.

NYU

"What I want students to do is look at the web as an opportunity to learn about journalism today by participating in it," said Rosen, who heads the Studio 20 program at NYU that has been planning the LEV for the last year. The model for the LEV site focuses on giving the community opportunities to contribute content to the site. Called the Virtual Assignment Desk, the site will have a feature that allows community members, such as NYU students and local residents, to pitch and contribute to story assignments.

"The idea is that anyone can cover the community," said Assignment Desk plug-in developer Daniel Bachhuber, a digital media manager at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

One of the challenges these types of partnerships in journalism face is ensuring that the student-produced media remains consistent with the standards of the participating news organization. That's where Rich Jones, editor of the LEV, comes in. "We'll obviously bring professional level standards to the treatment of those issues, being under the Times banner brings certain responsibilities," said Jones, a former New York Times writer. "We just want to give students the skills they were need to have a really successful career."

Another challenge NYU faces is making sure that the site remains consistent over the entire year, not just the school year. During the school year, NYU students in the Reporting New York graduate subject concentration will be responsible for the day-to-day content; during the summer the site will be run by a combination of undergraduate summer students and graduate interns in editorial leadership roles as part of the NYU Hyperlocal Newsroom Summer Academy.

"We wanted to make it available to students across the country," said Brooke Kroeger, director of the NYU Journalism Institute.

Undergraduates will be able to enroll in either of two six-week sessions; graduate students are eligible for paid editorial internships assisting with the professional staff of the LEV. "The summer program is integral to the ecosystem that supports the project," she said.

NYU also must deal with inherent conflicts in coverage of the East Village, given that the university is the neighborhood's largest land-owner. Community liaison Kim Davis will be coordinating outreach to the East Village blogosphere and will arrange any coverage pertaining to NYU itself.

"We're willing to work with anybody," said Jones. "We want to promote a real neighborhood-wide conversation, a forum for folks to write stories about themselves."

CUNY

The CUNY collaboration on The Local: Fort Greene is different from its NYU counterpart for a number of reasons. NYU is the largest land-owner in the area that the LEV is covering; CUNY is in a different borough than Fort Greene altogether. CUNY's graduate school of journalism is also relatively small, with approximately 100 students in its ranks. For these reasons, it makes sense that CUNY has taken a different tack with the overall direction for its Local.

"Our goal is to move beyond the idea that we create all the content for The Local," said Jarvis. "What we are concentrating heavily on is the encouragement of the ecosystem itself."

CUNY is taking its partnership with the NYT on The Local as an opportunity to let faculty leadership and student journalists experiment with not only different ways of telling stories, but different ways to pay for those stories, too. Through partnerships with companies like GrowthSpur Jarvis hopes that the site will encourage citizen salespeople to monetize their own start-ups.

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CUNY's Jarvis is also leading the creation of a four-semester entrepreneurial journalism graduate program that he hopes will see its students invent the future of journalism.

Through a focused entrepreneurial curriculum, research into alternative business models for news, and an incubator/investment fund for new business models for news, the program hopes to give students an option to start their own media company, according to Stephen Shepard, dean of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. "We feel we have to take some responsibility for the future of quality journalism," said Shepard.

"Students' most important job in journalism school is to learn journalism," said Jarvis, "but the benefit here is that they can test out their idea and get advice and help."

Columbia

Not everyone agrees with CUNY's approach, though. "There's a pretty clear finding on where universities can best contribute in a sector that is or should be going through an innovative period," said Nicolas Lemann, dean of Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism. Research is where universities can really add value, said Lemann.

Last fall, the Graduate School of Journalism released a report titled the The Reconstruction of American Journalism. Watchdog publication The Columbia Journalism Review is also run by, though editorially separate from, the school.

"We're not best positioned to be a business incubator, and though we could do that, it's not where we we can make our best contribution," said Lemann.

Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism has partly responded to the changing media environment by launching its Master of Science Program in Computer Science and Journalism, and it also offers courses like a social media seminar taught by an all-star class of professional new media journalists, such as Vadim Lavrusik of Mashable, Zach Seward of the Wall Street Journal, and Jennifer Preston of the New York Times.

Columbia also encourages journalism students to contribute to class websites. "These sites don't last very long though, and therefore don't build very significant audiences," said Lemann. "One of the things I'd like to do next is build a site that lasts year-round."

Leman's number one goal is to have a contextual curriculum that prepares students to go out and do a story. "There's endless stuff going on at the school," he said. "The aggregate is that this has been a time of real opportunity for journalism schools in general and ours in particular."

Davis Shaver is MediaShift's editorial intern. He is also the founder and publisher of Onward State, an online news organization at Penn State. He studies history and the intersection of science, technology, and society.

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

September 10 2010

23:35

4 Minute Roundup: NYU's Jay Rosen on Rethinking J-Schools

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4MR is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

In this week's 4MR podcast I do another special report for our "Beyond J-School" series, this time an in-depth discussion with NYU's Jay Rosen, who has been taking a new approach to journalism education. Rosen told me more about his Studio20 program, using an arts metaphor, and its work in helping to launch the new hyper-local site for the East Village in conjunction with the New York Times.

Check it out:

4mrbareaudio91010.mp3

>>> Subscribe to 4MR <<<

>>> Subscribe to 4MR via iTunes <<<

Listen to my entire interview with Jay Rosen, touching on student expectations, and the mistake of news organizations in not using J-schools as R&D labs in the past:

jayrosen final.mp3

Background music is "What the World Needs" by the The Ukelele Hipster Kings via PodSafe Music Network.

Here are some links to related sites and stories mentioned in the podcast:

Special Series - Beyond J-School at MediaShift

Studio20 on Tumblr

The New York Times' Latest Hyperlocal Site Will Launch On Sept. 13 at the Business Insider

Times Comes to Town, Sweating in Its Gown at Capital New York

The Local - East Village

The New York Times, NYU's Carter Journalism Institute to Launch News Site to Cover East Village at NYU

After helping ruin the East Village, NYU turns its attention to covering it at EV Grieve

Also, be sure to vote in our poll about what you think about the new Ping social network:




What do you think about the Ping social network in iTunes?customer surveys

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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4MR is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

September 09 2010

16:30

Columbia, Medill Training New Breed of Programmer-Journalists

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

Roughly two years ago, a group of prominent journalism educators, administrators and academics gathered in a room at Columbia University.

Attendees included Nicholas Lemann, the dean of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism; Bill Grueskin, the school's dean of academic affairs; Clay Shirky, the noted author, academic and adjunct professor at New York University; Jonathan Landman, who was then a top New York Times editor overseeing the paper's online operations (he's now its deputy managing editor); and Duy Linh Tu, an assistant professor and the director of digital media at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism. Notably, the meeting also included representatives from Columbia's Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.

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"It was just a small room with eight or 10 of us talking about how we can work together and combine forces between the engineering school and our school," Tu said. "Part of the reason for it was that so much of journalism is online now ... there is a lot of potential that hasn't even been tapped."

That meeting, along with a lot of other discussions, planning and hard work, eventually led to Columbia's April announcement of a new Master of Science Program in Computer Science and Journalism. The program will kick off in fall of 2011 with an expected first class of roughly 15 people.

As MediaShift contributor Megan Taylor outlined in a post last year, many of today's programmer-journalists got to where they are thanks to self-directed education and hacking together courses and other educational opportunities to build their skills. But the new Columbia program, along with other initiatives, suggests that the next wave of programmer-journalists could be trained in specialized education programs that combine a traditional engineering/computer science degree with a traditional journalism education. Universities are working to either alter existing journalism programs or create new joint degrees to formalize the training of these workers.

Along with the Columbia program, Medill has been graduating programmer-journalists since 2008, and Georgia Tech is also home to a class in "computational journalism" taught by computer science professor Irfan Essa. It bills itself as "a study of computational and technological advancements in journalism with emphasis on technologies for developing new tools and their potential impact on news and information."

Along the same lines, former Washington Post database editor Sarah Cohen is now the Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy at Duke University where her focus is on computational journalism. She recently worked with engineers to create of a new kind of timeline tool built for investigative journalists. Cohen sees a need for programs that bring programming and journalism closer together in order to help change the way newsrooms operate.

"There's a problem with the way things are organized in newsrooms," Cohen said. "Editors are word people and until that changes it will be hard to get reporters to focus on anything but words."

As with any emerging area or discipline, many big questions remain with programmer-journalist degrees. Are there enough people with a background in engineering or computer science interested in pursuing a career that's at least somewhat related to journalism? How many jobs are there out there for graduates? And what role will they ultimately play in journalism?

Altering Journalism Classes at Columbia

One of the basic questions about the new Columbia program is exactly how it differs from multimedia journalism programs and instruction.

Duy.jpg"I've learned by having to do a bunch of interviews and explain the program that a lot of people confuse it with building websites or learning to use Flash," said Tu. "We have a great program that does that. The analogy I like to use is that our students in the digital media class in the regular program use Photoshop or Flash; people in this degree would invent Photoshop."

Here's what Julia Hirschberg, professor of computer science at Columbia's Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science told Wired in the spring:

The IT Department [at a news organization] comes up with software programs that the journalists don't use; the journalists ask for software that is computationally unrealistic. We aim to produce a new generation of journalists who will understand both fields.

Applicants to the program are required to have a bachelor's degree in computer science or the equivalent. As for the journalism side of things, one of the most important qualifications is a passion for news and information.

"Someone asked what kind of programming languages the student will be learning and that's kind of missing the point: They already know the programming languages," Tu said. "They know C and Java -- they are nerds who want to turn their nerd knowledge into developing whatever technologies can help with the creation of journalism or the distribution of journalism."

To make that happen, the journalism school is altering some of its existing courses. The standard entry level reporting and writing class is being rejiggered for students in the dual master's program, but Tu said the students will absolutely learn how to report, even if that's unlikely to be their role in the workforce.

"The course is being revamped with an emphasis on the profession and teaching them how to be a journalist and [to get them] thinking of how they can apply what they just learned about the process of producing journalism to technology and how tech can make that better," he said. "They will learn to be journalists. There's no watching from the sidelines. They will go on their beat and find sources and have to understand that process."

He said graduates could end up in a range of workplace situations: at a news/information startup, as part of an in-house team at a news organization, or part of a team at an information-focused company such as Google.

Medill's Scholarships

Google also came up in a discussion with Rich Gordon, a professor and the director of digital innovation at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He said it was the launch of Google News that got him thinking about the need to create what he calls "bilingual" people who are equally versed in journalism and programming/engineering.

Rich Gordon

That resulted in Medill applying for and receiving a grant from the Knight Foundation to create scholarships for programmers to study journalism at the school. To date, nine students have received the scholarships, of which four have already graduated. They study at Medill for 12 months and exit with a master of science in journalism. Since they already have the programming skills, the focus is on building out their knowledge and journalism skills.

(Full disclosure: Medill is a longtime sponsor of MediaShift, and the Knight Foundation provided funding for MediaShift Idea Lab, where Gordon blogs about the scholarship program.)

"It I can have a really great programmer and make them literate in journalism, or take a journalist and give them some literacy in programming, then that's great," Gordon said. "The more we work on both sides of this gap, the more impact it can have. The premise is that we think it will be interesting to have bilingual journalist-programmers and they will come up with ideas, answers, programs and innovations that someone not equally proficient in both would not."

One similarity between the Medill and Columbia programs is that both are looking for people who already have programming skills. In each case, they say it seems easier to add journalism skills to a programmer, rather than the other way around. Brian Boyer was the first journalist-programmer to graduate from the Medill program, and he's now the Chicago Tribune's news applications editor. He agrees with this approach.

"Not to knock journalism, but I think it's probably easier to teach journalism to programmers than vice versa," he said via email. "It takes years of practice to become great at either, but the tools we use to make journalism -- words, etc. -- are generally accessible to a programmer. Whereas programming concepts are not general knowledge. Of course, we also use phone calls and other human contact to make journalism -- so the programmers do have much to learn."

Gordon said the challenge for these programs is to find programmers with a passion for journalism. After all, they may have to accept a lower salary in the world of news than what's offered to engineers in other industries.

"The biggest challenge is to find programmers for whom this would be a good fit," Gordon said. "All have done quite well in our program. I was dreading picking up the phone and having one of my colleagues say, 'Oh this guy who you admitted just can't hack it.' And that has not happened at all. In fact, it's been the opposite: My colleagues said it's one of best things we've done at Medill. They bring a new perspective to classes."

Future Prospects

The Medill scholarship recipients have so far had no trouble pursuing a career in line with their degree. Boyer has even hired a fellow Medill grad to join him at the Tribune. In another example, two other grads have launched a start-up, Stats Monkey. It remains to be seen where Columbia's grads will end up, but Tu is confident that they will not go wanting for work.

For the educational world, however, the question is whether these kinds of programs should become an essential part of journalism schools, or if they will remain niche programs at a small number of institutions. How many advanced programmer-journalists will be needed in the present and future? Will the tens of thousands of dollars spent by the Columbia grads be worth it in terms of their career prospects?

"The question I have is, is there a market for it?" Gordon said about the intensive dual degree being pitched by Columbia. "I suspect that without significant financial support for students there isn't a market for it. But if there is a market for a two-and-a-half or three-year joint degree ... and if Columbia proves they can make that work, that would be fabulous."

As much as these are academic programs, they are built to graduate students that can have an impact in the workforce. On that point Boyer, the first programmer-journalist to graduate from Medill, seems fairly optimistic.

"In the last six moths, I've run across job descriptions from a number of news organizations -- at several old-school/printy shops, at AP and Reuters, and at the new-wave web-centric non-profit shops like California Watch and Texas Tribune," he said. "This last bunch ought to be especially interesting to the hacker journalist. From what I've heard, they're getting a lot of traction out of their news applications, relative to their written work."

Craig Silverman is an award-winning journalist and author, and the managing editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He is founder and editor of Regret the Error, the author of Regret the Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free Speech, and a columnist for Columbia Journalism Review and BusinessJournalism.org. He also serves as digital journalism director of OpenFile, a collaborative news site for Canada. Follow him on Twitter at @CraigSilverman.

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

September 03 2010

23:51

4 Minute Roundup: Helping Journalism Students Get Tech Skills

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4MR is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

In this week's 4MR podcast I talk about MediaShift's Beyond J-School series so far, including the stories on teaching social media, the 5Across roundtable and Jen Lee Reeves' take on getting j-students over their fear of technology. I talked with Reeves more about how she is asking her students this semester to pay $36 each for Lynda.com courses on learning the basics of Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash. Reeves talked candidly about her students and their fears of failing with technology.

Check it out:

4mrbareaudio9310.mp3

>>> Subscribe to 4MR <<<

>>> Subscribe to 4MR via iTunes <<<

Listen to my entire interview with Jen Lee Reeves:

reeves full.mp3

Background music is "What the World Needs" by the The Ukelele Hipster Kings via PodSafe Music Network.

Here are some links to related sites and stories mentioned in the podcast:

Special Series - Beyond J-School at MediaShift

How to Conquer Journalism Students' Fear of Technology at MediaShift

Making a Change at Jen Lee Reeves' blog

Reporter's Guide to Multimedia Proficiency by Mindy McAdams

How Do I Teach Students to Integrate Multimedia Tools into Storytelling? at Poynter

AEJMC - Teaching Social Media in the Classroom at Reportr.net

Also, be sure to vote in our poll about what you think the biggest change is in journalism schools:




What's the most important change for journalism schools?customer surveys

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

news21 small.jpg

4MR is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

19:33

Business, Entrepreneurial Skills Come to Journalism School

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

For decades, journalists in mainstream news organizations were shielded from the revenue side of the operation. Many argued their lack of knowledge helped avoid even the appearance of commercial influence in the editorial well. But with increased stress in the news industry and new disruptive technologies giving even entry-level reporters an understanding of audience behaviors and income streams, things have started to shift.

Journalism educators have increasingly been helping students learn the workings of the business side of news. The trend mirrors similar changes in the newsroom. Plus, with many journalists being laid off, having the business skills to run their own media enterprise -- whether it's a blog, podcast or independent news site -- is vital to many more people.

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"It came to be recognized that journalists needed to play more of a role in the future of their enterprises," said Stephen Shepard, who talked to me recently in a phone interview. Shepard is the founding and current dean of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and former editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek magazine.

CUNY's J-school and a raft of other journalism schools and institutes have introduced business courses into their curricula, teaching students to read and create basic financial statements and the principles of media management. They are also launching new training programs for mid-career journalists and editors.

Janice Castro is the senior director of graduate education and teaching excellence at Medill. She told me that at Northwestern University, the Medill School of Journalism and Kellogg business school have cooperated "for a long time" in developing a media management and research center.

Full disclosure: Medill is a longtime sponsor of MediaShift.

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Four years ago, as Medill revamped its curriculum, seats in two courses in media management at Kellogg were reserved for Medill students. Medill graduate students are also required to take either a course in "Audience Insight" or "How 21st Century Media Work," and have the option to take Kellogg classes in finance.

"We think it's really important for students who are going out to operate as journalists to understand the business of media," Castro said. "It's going to help them make better choices in where they're going to work, because they'll be better able to size up the company and its direction and its vision. They'll know more than the brand or the name of a big media organization. They'll be able to assess it."

Students will also better be able to help guide the organization strategically, according to Castro and Shepard. "When you have a student who's graduated and immediately put on the management track at a major media company, that's not something that used to happen," Castro said.

Demand for Entrepreneurial Instruction

There's also increasing demand from students joining or launching startup ventures.

CUNY this month expects to announce the formation of a master's degree program in Entrepreneurial Journalism, further enriching and extending courses offered since the school's inception four years ago.

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At the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship" is devoted to the development of new media entrepreneurship and the creation of innovative digital media products," according to its site. (Read this previous MediaShift article about how the school teaches digital media entrepreneurs.)

Retha Hill is the director of the New Media Innovation Lab at Cronkite.
During a lab-focused semester, Cronkite school students "have to think about the business implications of their ideas or the information they are gathering," Hill told me via email.

Even at Columbia University, where school founder Joseph Pulitizer in 1904 wrote that he found the idea of teaching business "repugnant," students are required to learn business principles. All Masters of Science students, about 85 percent of matriculants, take a class on the "Business of Journalism" that was conceived and introduced last year by dean of academic affairs and former Wall Street Journal Online managing editor Bill Grueskin.

The course includes a Harvard Business School case study about a Norwegian media company called Schibsted that moved its business more strongly into digital media; instruction on managing profit and loss in a business; the differences in advertising and circulation revenues; principles of ad pricing; and other business issues.

Grueskin told me via email that the faculty at Columbia overwhelmingly supported the course. In a letter to them, Grueskin wrote that while Pulitzer "went out of his way to exclude business courses from the curriculum," today "journalists are increasingly being called upon to make business models work. We owe it to our students to give them a grounding in that field."

Training Institutes Step In

Training institutes, too, are helping journalists and editors learn business principles.

The Knight Digital Media Center, based at both the University of Southern California and the University of California at Berkeley, in May held a week-long "News Entrepreneur Boot Camp."

Full disclosure: Knight Digital Media Center is a sponsor of MediaShift.

Attendees, many of them mid-career journalists, learned disciplines such as business models, building a feasibility plan, customer acquisition and web analytics.

The Poynter Institute, a Florida-based journalism think tank and training center where I contribute articles and have lectured on business principles, in July named two Ford Fellows in Entrepreneurial Journalism who are mentoring startup initiatives and teaching business disciplines.

Heartening Trend

While some journalism purists may bemoan what they consider fuzzing the lines between "church (journalism) and state (business)," I find the move to integrate business into journalism education encouraging.

It's healthy, I think, that reporters and editors now believe they should understand what it is that brings in the money that goes into their paychecks.

This is not to say they should pander to commercial or financial interests -- and there is certainly a danger as even junior reporters learn how many page views (and by implication advertising impressions) a story they produce garners. One journalism educator told me that even in his "little blog" he considered whether to disrupt the center column with an ad and make more money.

It's always been a balancing act, though, even if the rank-and-file weren't completely aware. At BusinessWeek, "ad placement was always an issue," Shepard said.

That even new J-school graduates now understand some of the struggles is probably a good thing -- as long as they also are grounded in what Shepard called the "professionalism and judgment" to not "cave in all the time to advertising demands in a way that would hurt the reader or viewer."

In the long run, those guiding journalistic enterprises must understand both the editorial principles that over time bring in and maintain a community of readers and participants, as well as the business principles that sustain the operation.

If they can do so successfully, perhaps the new news businesses they are molding and creating can then survive the fate of so many of today's severely stressed news organizations.

A former managing editor at ABCNews.com and an MBA, Dorian Benkoil has devised and executed marketing and sales strategies for MediaShift. He is SVP at Teeming Media, a strategic media consultancy focused on attracting, engaging, activating communities through digital media. He tweets at @dbenk.

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

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September 02 2010

18:00

How to Conquer Journalism Students' Fear of Technology

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

In a time and age when many of my generation assume the younger generation understands technology, I have been surprised by the number of students who walk into my class and announce that they "don't know anything about computers."

It's a rampant attitude. I beg each and every student who says this to pretend they never said it and try everything I introduce to them in my class. Over the last seven years I've been teaching, I've seen a slow change that is now very obvious: It isn't just a belief that they don't know about computers, many students are simply afraid to fail.

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I am open to writing about my professional failures for this site. I thrive from the learning experience that comes from doing everything I can, even if I fail. So my students' reaction to failure has been difficult to understand, and even more difficult to verbalize.

A Different Approach

When they arrive in my class, I teach students how to go beyond what they already learned in the radio/television sequence at the Missouri School of Journalism. The students know how to produce stories for on-the-air and online. They know how to edit stellar video and audio. But there is another level of multimedia journalism that I try to help them add to an already solid base of knowledge. This can be scary, as many of my students are overachievers who are frightened to get a bad grade. They're afraid to jump into something new before they even have a chance to fail. I used to just think that was funny and it didn't interfere with my teaching. But lately I have decided it is time to teach my class differently.

In the past I taught students the basics of software like Flash, Photoshop and Illustrator. I introduced blogging, video conversion tools and many other web-based tools that can make delivering online stories a richer experience. The students who try it all walk away with a knowledge of how things work. But even more important, they understand how to talk about the technology. They may not be experts, but they can talk to an expert and be able to understand his or her needs when they work together on a project.

I will not stop teaching these tools, but I am going to do it with more help. I think I need to spend classroom time presenting my case for the basic knowledge of software instead of teaching it during class time. I plan on going about this campaign in a number of ways.

Four Elements

Here are the four main elements of my new approach:

  1. First, I want to make sure my students know there is no other time in their life when they will have this much free time to experience and be curious about new tools for journalism. I'm handing them access to tools to explore and an outlet to share their lessons. Each of my students work in the KOMU-TV or KBIA-FM newsrooms. (KOMU is a university-owned local NBC station; KBIA is the local NPR station.) They also have a chance to work with a number of social media applications for each of the newsrooms.
  2. Second, instead of focusing on the software in the classroom, I will spend more time showing examples of what technology can produce for the journalism industry. I hope to introduce my students to a number of people in the profession (thanks to Skype) who have a wide range of skills. I hope to use their backgrounds to explain why it's important to break past fear of the new.
  3. Third, I have added five online courses from Lynda.com to my class, which my students will be able to take at their own pace. I will not teach software in class, but I will hold open, non-mandatory meetings for students who are still confused and want to work through the confusion.
  4. At the end of the class, I will ask students to use the lessons they learned with Lynda.com to produce content that will benefit their online portfolio. I will expect examples of photo editing, graphic creation and, as extra credit, a use of interactive graphics. I'm hoping that by requiring content that will benefit the student portfolios, it will motivate my students to jump into learning software.

Not all of my students are afraid of technology. The shifts I am making in my class are focused on helping this group of students succeed just as well as the more fearful ones. And I'm ready to push ahead with these changes with the knowledge that they too could fail.

Jennifer Reeves worked in television news for the majority of her career. In the last six years, she has moved from traditional journalist to non-traditional thinker about journalism and education. Jen is currently the New Media Director at KOMU-TV and komu.com. At the same time, she is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and was a part of the inaugural class of Reynolds Journalism Institute fellows (2008-09).

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

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September 01 2010

20:01

Revamping J-Schools in Australia to Bring in 'Citizens Agenda'

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

As Australian democracy hangs in the balance, and with the outcome of the August 21 national election unlikely to be resolved for weeks, I'm considering the implications for journalism education -- and how we can invent new models for political reporting.

I am a former Australian Broadcasting Corporation political journalist who now teaches journalism in at the University of Canberra, which is situated just down the road from Australia's national parliament. Parliament House is home to the Canberra Press Gallery, the Holy Grail of Australian political journalism.

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I made a successful attempt at innovating through the employment of Twitter as a student-reporting platform in a Canberra regional election in 2008. But it's time my school, which bills itself as Australia's "Capital University," embarked on a political journalism project that marries journalism students and media-active citizenry with industry partners, new media players and civic agencies.

Such an approach could enable the implementation of a citizen-informed editorial agenda; the engagement of a now essential social media strategy; and the enhancement of industry partner's political coverage, with the social objective of enabling participatory democracy. It should also provide an opportunity for academic research, so that the outcomes can be appropriately measured and academically published, as well as being reported for mass consumption through a variety of media.

Superficial Coverage

Problematic Australian political reporting, which became a theme of its own during the heavily stage-managed campaign, has been cited as one of the causes of this historic result: The first hung Parliament since World War II, and the upending of Australia's entrenched, highly combative, two-party democracy.

Journalists have been accused of producing superficial stories that were heavily influenced by polls and the major parties' political agendas, but light on critique and context. Citizen journalists bit back on blogs and Twitter, telling journalists to lift their game.

They complained about Press Gallery obsessions with predictions, personalities and political processes at the expense of policies. They also cited the impact of spin and campaign stage management on editorial agendas at the expense of independent, inquiring journalism as evidence of the need for changing practice. They asked why Australia's increasingly costly involvement in the war in Afghanistan wasn't probed during the campaign, and they wanted to know why both major parties virtually ignored climate change. This public critique of professional political journalism provoked defensive reactions from some reporters and triggered a vigorous Twitter debate on political journalism between the Fourth Estate and the New Estate. Witness the below exchange between a journalist and one of my colleagues at the university:

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Four independent Members of Parliament, bent on upending the Oz political landscape, are likely to hold the Balance of Power in the new government -- and they've already taken aim at the Fourth Estate for its failures and apparent determination to maintain the status quo. In a National Press Club (NPC) address last week, one MP, Tony Windsor, challenged the journalists present, saying, "if you people are sick of the nonsense, then promote some of [our] concepts." Another, Rob Oakeshott, pointed to what he sees as the essence of the problem. "In focusing so heavily on the [Prime Minister], the cabinet and the polls ... we have lost the focus on the local member," he told the NPC. And with it, the local community.

A challenge

NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen visited Australia in the middle of the election campaign to speak at a national conference of journalists. He was intrigued to find what he calls horse race journalism being practiced on the Australian election campaign trail. He revived his alternative model for political reporting driven by the "citizens agenda" during his highly publicized visit. He also proposed a new role of media outlet as "explainer" for the national public broadcaster, ABC.

U.S. political journalist John Nichols was another keynote speaker at the conference. His rousing speech invoked Finley Peter Dunne ("afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted") and pointed to the risk that spin increasingly amplifies the voices of the powerful and threatens journalists' capacity to speak truth to power. It made me feel like I'd attended a revival meeting at the Church of Journalism.

Rosen's practical challenge and Nichols' call to faith focused my mind on the role that journalism education might play in reforming political reporting in Australia. Key targets for an overhaul of political journalism in the Australian setting are:

  • The missing "citizens agenda" and active engagement with citizen journalists.
  • The absence of explanatory reporting and a preference for inflammatory tabloid-style political reporting.
  • The resort to the defense of objectivity in the face of political deceit.
  • The concentration of political reporting on the national capital and the parliament, and the insistence on focusing campaign coverage on the traveling shows staged by the leaders of the two main political parties, Labor and the Liberal National Coalition.

Barrukka Project

There has been only limited innovation in the sphere of community and industry-partnered journalism school projects around political journalism in Australia. The best of these was YouDecide2007 project, which sought to explore the role of social media and citizen journalism in partnership with the secondary Australian public broadcaster, the multilingual SBS. This early and very successful research-driven project did not, however, systematically involve journalism students, nor did it directly feed back into journalism training. In fact, most Australian journalism schools don't teach political journalism as a genre, and the training that does occur tends to simply model entrenched industry patterns.

Here's what I propose: A multi-partnered, citizen-activated journalism project based at the University of Canberra in the lead up to the next national election (which could happen swiftly unless a stable government can be established in the current cliff-hanger of a ballot!). The objective would be to take the focus off the agendas of the major parties and the Canberra Press Gallery and look beyond the walls of Parliament House to the experiences and views of the broader Canberra public.

Let's call this proposed project Barrukka, which means "talk" in an Aboriginal dialect. This name is in deference to the historically disenfranchised Indigenous Australians and it is a way of reflecting an underlying objective of connecting disempowered voices with the mainstream media and broader public.

Its four-fold purpose would be to:

  1. Produce citizen agenda-enhanced journalism in multiple forms, across multiple platforms (including social media like Twitter and Facebook) and aggregated on a UC-managed website.
  2. Produce political reporters equipped to challenge dominant media/political paradigms and produce creative content.
  3. Provide opportunities for citizen journalism and community engagement.
  4. Enhance mainstream media coverage of the election.

Senior student journalists, with the appropriate training and experience, would be embedded within the wider region's individual electorates (which range from inner city through farmland) for one week, researching and reporting the main issues identified by community organizations, local media and candidates. Thereafter, those electorates would become their election beats and their new contacts their main sources for coverage.

The student journalists would also be tasked to recruit local leaders for community-based discussion groups. These groups would identify and explore key issues of concern and then feed those ideas into editorial processes, while group leaders would also upload content (audio, video, images, etc.) directly to the main website and via interconnected social media platforms.

Partnerships With Industry, New Media & Government

Partnerships would provide funding and support for the project. For example, UC's journalism program could partner with the country's respected and community-engaged, multiple-platform public broadcaster, the ABC.

A second potential partnership could be formed between UC and one of the emerging activist media groups invested in social change like Get-Up, which successfully extended voting enrollment rights during the 2010 poll through legal challenges.

A third partnership could be pursued between UC's journalism program and the Australian Electoral Commission, the statutory body which oversees the election process and the registration of voters. One of the roles of the project would be to educate Australians about electoral processes, promote democratic engagement and stimulate voter registration.

Embedded Hyper-Local Reporting

Embedding student journalists within individual electorates and requiring them to build relationships with both the candidates and the communities, through a combination of online and traditional reporting strategies, would encourage coverage of issues which may challenge both the major parties' strategic objectives and the Press Gallery's narrow editorial agenda.

The student reporters would be forbidden from covering press-release generated "news" in the interests of countering spin, and they would be required to include two face-to-face interviews from non-official sources in every story filed. Their brief would be to report in an explanatory, rather than inflammatory, manner.

They would be required to file content across a range of platforms including the project website, UC journalism school radio and TV programs, Twitter, blogs and Facebook pages associated with the project. In addition, they would be expected to tweet and blog about the processes of reporting in the interests of reflexive practice. And they would be tasked to produce one podcast during the campaign about the key issues and policies concerning the assigned electorate for showcasing on the ABC's website.

Community Forums

The embedded student journalists would identify leaders for citizen-based deliberative forums to be held in each electorate, every week of the campaign. These forum leaders would be trained in basic technical and professional skills by the project. They would be tasked to collect and file content to the project website with group members commenting on key themes emerging from each forum. They would operate like self-reporting focus groups.

They would also be asked to identify one question they would like to put to each candidate in their electorate during community Q&A forums to be staged in the final week of the campaign.

These Q&A forums would be moderated and reported on by the student journalists involved in the project, with the possibility of content also being fed to ABC.

Research Processes/Outcomes

UC journalism academics, working with student research assistants from media studies and communication theory courses, would analyze the processes, outputs and impacts of the exercise and compare the coverage to the mainstream media's reporting of each electorate assigned. The results of this multi-faceted academic research (incorporating quantitative and qualitative methodologies) would then be published academically and in a range of popular, accessible media with a view to feeding outcomes back into the curriculum and future projects.

At this stage, Barrukka is just a simple on-paper-only attempt at enlivening and improving political journalism education in Australia. But I am about to return to the classroom after a long stint of maternity leave, with fresh eyes and renewed purpose -- and I will do my best to turn this idea into a reality. Meantime, watch on as Australian democracy undergoes renovation. You may be inspired too.

If you are interested in being involved as a partner or a sponsor in this proposed project, please email me.

Julie Posetti is an award winning journalist and journalism academic who lectures in radio and television reporting at the University of Canberra, Australia. She's been a national political correspondent, a regional news editor, a TV documentary reporter and presenter on radio and television with the Australian national broadcaster, the ABC. Her academic research centers on talk radio, public broadcasting, political reporting and broadcast coverage of Muslims post-9/11. She blogs at J-Scribe and you can follow her on Twitter.

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

August 31 2010

20:25

5Across: Beyond J-School

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5Across is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

Just as traditional media has struggled with disruptive technology and the Internet, so too have the institutions that run journalism education. Most journalism schools and training programs are run by people whose careers were framed by print, broadcast and traditional PR, so how can students get the skills they need in the digital age? We convened a group of journalism educators, a trainer, a student and a J-school dropout to discuss how journalism education is shifting.

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The discussion flowed from the changing curriculum to the student's mindset -- why do students still believe in the romance of a journalism career when there are so few jobs? How should educators teach new multimedia skills, as well as collaboration with other journalists and even the people formerly known as the audience? And finally, do students even need a journalism degree or can they learn it all themselves. We discuss this and a whole lot more on this spirited episode of 5Across, part of our two-week special on journalism education at MediaShift. Check it out!

5Across: Beyond J-School

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>>> Subscribe to 5Across video podcast <<<

>>> Subscribe to 5Across via iTunes <<<

Guest Biographies

After dropping out of journalism school in 1998, Lea Aschkenas wrote a story about her experiences for Salon. Her post-journalism school career includes a stint as a staff reporter, itinerant freelance writer, and author of the memoir, "Es Cuba: Life and Love on an Illegal Island" (Seal Press, 2006). She has also written for the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and San Francisco Chronicle. Currently, she works as a public librarian and teaches poetry-writing through the California Poets in the Schools program.

Kelly Goff is a senior in the journalism department at San Francisco State University, focusing on print and online journalism. She recently moved to San Francisco from Los Angeles, where she earned her associates in journalism from Pierce College. She is also an assistant events planner with the Journalism Association of Community Colleges.

Jon Funabiki is a professor of journalism at San Francisco State University and executive director of the Renaissance Journalism Center, which conducts projects to stimulate journalistic innovations that strengthen communities. Funabiki is the former deputy director of the Ford Foundation's Media, Arts & Culture Unit and was the founding director of San Francisco State University's Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism. As a journalist with The San Diego Union, he specialized in U.S.-Asia political and economic affairs and reported from Japan, China, South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam and other countries.

Lanita Pace-Hinton is the director of the Knight Digital Media Center, a
continuing education program based at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. The Knight Digital Media Center offers free week-long workshops that provides journalists with hands-on training on multimedia storytelling and how to use web tools and social media. Lanita has served as director of career services

and industry outreach for the UC Berkeley journalism school. She advised students on skills development and how to prepare for their entry into the profession.

Full disclosure: The Knight Digital Media Center is a sponsor of PBS MediaShift.

Howard Rheingold is a prominent author, educator and speaker on technology and the Internet. He wrote best-sellers about virtual reality and virtual communities, and was the founding executive editor of HotWired. He also founded Electric Minds in the mid-'90s. Rheingold has taught as appointed lecturer at UC Berkeley and Stanford University and has spoken about the social, cultural, political and economic impacts of new technologies.

If you'd prefer to watch sections of the show rather than the entire show, I've broken them down by topic below.

Shifting the Curriculum

The Student's Mindset

The Good and Bad of Social Media

Journalism School Necessary?

Teaching Tech Skills

Credits

Mark Glaser, executive producer and host
Corbin Hiar, research assistant

Singeli Agnew, camera

Julie Caine, audio

Location: Vega Project & Kennerly Architecture office space in San Francisco

Special thanks to: PBS and the Knight Foundation

Music by AJ the DJ

*****

What do you think? Are you an educator or student with thoughts on how journalism should be taught? Do you think a degree in journalism is necessary to become a journalist? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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5Across is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

August 30 2010

19:24

How to Teach Social Media in Journalism Schools

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

Editor's Note: This is the first in our special series at MediaShift, "Beyond J-School," where we will take an in-depth look at the state of journalism education and training in the digital age. Look out for more articles all this week and next.

Social media is such a new phenomenon that it is easy for someone to claim to be an expert in the subject. A search on Twitter throws up all sorts of people claiming to be social media gurus. But at journalism schools, professors are working out how to teach social media to ensure that graduating students are proficient, if not expert, in this new addition to the curriculum.

Students use social media in their daily lives, with Facebook an almost permanent fixture on the computer screen. Yet they tend not to think about social media as part of their professional toolkit as journalists.

If anything, anecdotal evidence suggests that students are resistant to adopting social media, seeing it as a personal activity, rather than as part of their work as a journalist. The pressure is on educators to demonstrate the professional value of social media.

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The first step is working out what we mean by social media. After all, there has also been a social aspect to media, whether it was people discussing last night's TV in the office or clipping a newspaper article to send to a friend. But there is something new about services such as Facebook, Flickr and Twitter that let people connect, create, share and mash-up media.

European researchers Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein define social media as "a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content."
In other words, digital technologies that empower users to interact with each other, and participate and collaborate in the making of media, rather than just consuming media.

Clearly there is more to social media in the classroom than technology. Central to teaching social media is providing an understanding of how these digital tools affect the way students actually do journalism. The issue for many journalism schools is incorporating social media into an established and packed curriculum, within an academic environment where the pace of change is slow.

Lessons in best practices

The question of how to teach social media in a way that enhances journalism reverberated at a meeting of hundreds of journalism educators from across North America. The annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) in Denver provided a platform to discuss ideas on social media in the classroom. In a sign of the growing recognition of social media, the AEJMC even organized a competition for educators to share some of their best practices for incorporating social media into the classroom. (Read MediaShift's previous coverage of the AEJMC conference here.)

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One idea mentioned by several speakers at the AEJMC conference was the value of incorporating social media into beat reporting. There are various ways that this can be done. Students can use Twitter to monitor the community chatter on issues in their beats through hashtags. They can also identify and follow key people connected to their beat.

But students also need to understand how to assess the stream of information on social media. Real-time services such as Twitter have established themselves as primary sources for breaking news, so it is important to teach students to critically measure and check the validity of information.

Social media is one way of introducing students to the notion of journalism as a conversation. The key lesson here is that these tools are not just another channel to distribute the finished story. Social media can help journalists reach out to audiences, seeking ideas for stories and fresh perspectives on stories they are working on.

One of the challenges here is teaching the different norms and practices on different social media services. For example, just posting a message seeking information is frowned upon. Instead, students are encouraged to be active on social media, showing they are contributing to the conversation rather than just taking.

Reputation Management

Social media blurs the line between the personal and the professional, so another important lesson is how to build and manage your online identity. Serena Carpenter at the Cronkite School at Arizona State University has students use Google themselves to research their online identity. She has found students are encouraged to adopt social media when they see themselves appear high up on Google.

In a variation of this, I have students Google each other to find out something they didn't know about their peer. The aim of the exercise is to make students aware of how future employers might see them.

The next stage is teaching students how to manage their reputation and establish their credibility. Prof. Carpenter has students complete their bio on numerous sites such as LinkedIn and Google Profile using the same photo, credentials and web links.

Social media has also been used for student-centered learning, for example, to educate students about the strengths and weaknesses of online collaboration. Bob Britten of West Virginia University used Google Maps for students to work together to map retirement homes in the area.

Rather than lecture students on the credibility of Wikipedia, Gary Ritzenthaler, a PhD student at the University of Florida, created a wiki for students to collaborate on study notes for an upcoming test. By participating, the students learned about collaborative writing but also became aware of questions about the credibility of content produced by others.

Thinking About Social Media

Practicing social media is not enough in an academic environment. There has to be a place for student reflection on what they have learned, explaining their understanding of social media. Students should have set out their goals for the use of social media and demonstrate they can assess the most appropriate platforms and services.

Teaching social media is more than showing students the mechanics of Twitter. Rather, they should learn how to build a network of relevant followers and how to interact with them to be a better journalist.

In the classroom, we need to stress that social media technologies do not just offer journalists new ways of doing old things. They offer the potential to explore new ways of telling stories, of collaborating and connecting with audiences, of rethinking how we do journalism.

Photo of AEJMC panel by Hunter Stevens via AEJMC News

Alfred Hermida is an online news pioneer and journalism educator. He is an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Journalism, the University of British Columbia, where he leads the integrated journalism program. He was a founding news editor of the BBC News website. He blogs at Reportr.net.

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

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