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January 07 2011


Learning How to Teach Multimedia Journalism

Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by the USC Annenberg nine-month M.A. in Specialized Journalism. USC's highly customized degree programs are tailored to the experienced journalist and gifted amateur. Learn more about how USC Annenberg is immersed in tomorrow.

Doing multimedia journalism and teaching it are two very different things. The past semester marked my first as an adjunct professor. It was probably the best thing I could have done for my own education.

At KPBS, I've produced online news content using audio, video, photography, slideshows, visualizations, social and interactive media. So when I was offered the opportunity to teach a multimedia journalism course at a local university, I jumped right in. After all, I had already led a number of training workshops. This is going to be easy, right? Yeah, right.

Teaching vs. Training

In the fall of 2010, Point Loma Nazarene University added a new upper-level course, Multimedia Journalism (WRI 430), as a requirement for its Journalism and Broadcast Journalism majors. I was brought on to teach the class the summer before it would begin. During my interview with the school's journalism faculty, I was asked two questions that changed how I would approach the class:

"You have some experience doing multimedia training, but what do you see as the difference between 'training' and 'teaching'?"

"Your suggested curriculum has a lot of technology listed here, but where does that fit into storytelling?"

In my haste to outline how I would train students in multimedia, I focused more on learning the tools. Of course, the purpose is always storytelling. And my role wasn't merely to train them to use tools (workshop style) -- I needed to teach them how to become multimedia storytellers.

Learning Never Ends

Software is temporary; new tools and never-ending feature upgrades require constant learning. I've learned my share of dead programs (anyone else remember Authorware?). But regardless of the tools we use, there are core principles underlying how we communicate through different media. I needed to help students adapt to -- and thrive in -- the change they would inevitably witness during their careers.

So how exactly do you teach someone how to learn? Throw them in the deep end. I had to almost force myself not to teach them how to use the software in order to let them to find the answers for themselves. "Ask Google" and "the Help menu is your friend" were mantras of the class. I did give brief introductions to point them in the right direction, but then I let them sort out the details.

Getting Started

Final Cut ProNew to the school's facilities, I toured the lab to confirm what programs were installed before planning assignments. Final Cut Pro, check. Photoshop, check. Those are key programs, but multimedia projects often require lots of extra apps to get things done (Audacity, SoundSlides, MPEGStreamClip, CyberDuck, etc.). Unfortunately, as is common in academic labs, software requests needed to have been submitted several months in advance; it was too late for me to get anything added. This was a blessing in disguise because limitations can inspire creativity. It also gave me a chance to apply a concept KPBS will be experimenting with in 2011: Using Final Cut as the single program for doing radio, video and audio slideshows.

In preparing the curriculum, I bookmarked syllabi, blog posts and assignments other professors had generously published online. This gave me a general framework, but ultimately couldn't give me everything I needed. My course would fit within the structure of a specific school's curriculum. I put together a schedule, ordering the assignments to build on each other:

  1. Podcast on multimedia journalism: Use clips from Multimedia Standards, write and record voiceover.
  2. Storytelling through audio: Allow the subject's voice to tell the story without a narrator. Use sound to create a scene.
  3. Storytelling through a still image: Use one image with caption to illustrate a story.
  4. Storytelling through a photo series: Create a narrative through a combination of wide, medium, and close-up perspectives.
  5. Storytelling through audio slideshow: Combine concept of audio story with narrative series of photos.
  6. Storytelling in video: Show action in a series of edited clips to accompany a story.
  7. Storytelling through data visualization: Use spreadsheet to graph data, optimized for clear interpretation.
  8. Storytelling through maps: Make location-based information useful through an interactive map.

Present and Critique

My class was small enough to use an approach you would see in a studio art class. I gave a brief lecture on a topic and then gave an assignment. By next class they needed to have work to present. During class, students talked about each other's work and critiqued what did and didn't work. By the next class, they needed to have integrated that feedback and have published their final work.

This process of seeing work before and after also made for an effective grading practice. It was a clear gauge of effort to see if they incorporated changes. I also wanted them to have the experience of taking feedback, and more importantly, to learn how to give analytical criticism in a productive and professional way.

In addition to these projects, I required weekly social media updates: Share a story on Google Reader, bookmark a link on Delicious, and post to Twitter. I've spent enough time helping reporters integrate Twitter into their process to be determined not to let my students get by without dominating these elements. Yahoo's announcement about wanting to sell Delicious underscores the need to focus on the concept rather than the app itself: Track sources, save links and share updates throughout the process. As a sign of success, students are maintaining their updates even after the semester ended.

Putting It Into Practice

KPBS Story IllustrationWe were fortunate to have an election during the fall semester, so I took the class downtown on election night. They live tweeted, posted photos of candidates and supporters to Flickr, and published pie charts of election results using Google Spreadsheets. KPBS used the charts online and two students had their photos selected for stories. Students gained practical experience and broader exposure by collaborating with the local public media outlet.

By the end of the semester, we were able to have robust discussions about which medium would be most effective for a particular story. And that, in a nutshell, is where successful multimedia stories begin.

Teaching as a professional adjunct clarified the distinction between a training workshop and a university course. Workshops are great for quick skill building, but they don't compare to four months of constant practice, feedback and growth with a mentor challenging you along the way.

Nathan Gibbs teaches multimedia journalism as an adjunct instructor for Point Loma Nazarene University and the SDSU Digital and Social Media Collaborative. Gibbs oversees multimedia content as web producer for KPBS, the PBS and NPR affiliate in San Diego. He played a key role in the station's groundbreaking use of social media during the 2007 Southern California wildfires and continues to drive interactive strategy. Gibbs is on Twitter as @nathangibbs and runs Modern Journalist, a blog for journalists exploring multimedia.

Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by the USC Annenberg nine-month M.A. in Specialized Journalism. USC's highly customized degree programs are tailored to the experienced journalist and gifted amateur. Learn more about how USC Annenberg is immersed in tomorrow.

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December 15 2010


J-School Incubator News21 Balances Investigations, Innovation


Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by the USC Annenberg nine-month M.A. in Specialized Journalism. USC's highly customized degree programs are tailored to the experienced journalist and gifted amateur. Learn more about how USC Annenberg is immersed in tomorrow.

During the slow news week of Thanksgiving, two articles about the shortcomings of the National Transportation Safety Board were published on the websites of Fox News and the Capital Gazette of Annapolis, Maryland. On the busiest travel week of the year, their story selections would be unsurprising were it not for their provenance. Both were written over three months earlier by students taking part in News21, an immersive journalism education program.

So what exactly is News21? The program's full title is "News for the 21st Century: Incubators of New Ideas" and it is part of a three-pronged journalism education initiative of the Carnegie Corporation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The incubators referred to in the name of the program are high tech school newsrooms, which for 10 weeks each summer are hosted by some of the many journalism schools participating in the project. These temporary bureaus have been working to produce not only original reporting, but also a fundamental shift in the way journalism is taught and practiced.

Those are lofty goals for a summer program, but there's evidence News21 is making progress toward achieving them. To chart News21's progress and challenges, I spoke with students who had recently gone through the program as well as administrators both past and present. While the student reporting has been solid and has received distribution in mainstream media outlets, there's still room for improvement in community involvement, continuity over the years and innovative forms of journalism.

(Disclosure: News21 has been a sponsor of MediaShift in the past.)

The Foundations

Merrill_Brown10.jpgFirst, a bit of history. In the summer of 2006, the first class of News21 fellows collaboratively examined the balance between liberty and security in the U.S. From 2006 until 2008, News21 had "kind of an ad hoc home" at the University of California-Berkeley, according to News21's former national director Merrill Brown.

Brown coordinated 44 fellows from UC-Berkeley, Columbia University, Northwestern University, the University of Southern California (USC) and Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. All but Harvard hosted their own incubators. Each summer the schools used their combined journalistic firepower to cover a broad American issue: Liberty vs. security the first year, religion in the second, and finally the 2008 elections.

The program gained great exposure in its first year when CNN devoted a full hour of "Anderson Cooper 360" to the reporting by the UC-Berkeley students, who examined the personal lives of U.S. troops on peacekeeping missions around the world. By the second year, it was also producing informative and innovative storytelling tools like this still useful Moral Compass, which allows users to quickly compare the answers that nine different religions have for common questions of morality.

Inevitably, there was overlap between the topic areas chosen by the different incubators. When PBS MediaShift executive editor Mark Glaser reported on News21 in the fall of 2007, many fellows complained to him that their newsrooms featured "more competition than collaboration among the schools involved" for stories and resources.

The Additions

A more wide-angle focus for the project in 2009, Changing America, seems to have reduced intra-school rivalry. Although a new grant from the Carnegie-Knight initiative in 2009 added incubators at Syracuse University, University of North Carolina, University of Maryland, and Arizona State University (ASU) to the mix, the umbrella theme for summer was so broad that it would have been unlikely for the eight bureaus to step on one anothers' toes. (The universities of Missouri, Nebraska, and Texas at Austin also joined as associate schools like Harvard.)

The renewed grant also included funding to hire a three-person administrative team for the program, now based full-time out of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU. During the summer, News21 national director Jody Brannon travels the country to ensure the increasingly decentralized incubators have the digital tools and editorial guidance they need to produce top-notch journalism. In addition to helping alleviate the perceived resource crunch, Brannon also helped organize the launch of a second newsroom at ASU in 2010.

This new national incubator is probably the most important addition to News21 since its inception. Having drawn one top student from each of the 12 member schools, it is News21's most diverse incubator by composition. The focus of the newsroom is also nationwide. Last summer, News21 fellows collaborated with two data specialists from the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) in Washington, D.C., to examine sprawling databases from the National Transportation and Safety Board.

Inside the National Incubator


When the incubator opened for business, management of the project was split between two highly experienced editors. Kristin Gilger, an associate dean at ASU's Cronkite J-school, was essentially the managing editor of the national project and worked closely with the fellows in Tempe.

"I did the first thorough 14th edits -- or however many it took -- on all the stories," Gilger said, only partially kidding.

In addition to Gilger, final copy was reviewed by Leonard Downie Jr., a professor at Cronkite and former longtime executive editor at the Washington Post. Downie was also in contact with CPI and the Post, where much of the team's work would be published.

The Post ran four News21 articles on transportation safety during the last week of September. The newspaper's website linked to additional reporting from the national incubator on the landing page for the series, Traveling Dangerously in America. In the same week, MSNBC.com ran another four stories on trucking and aviation safety, which Gilger said, "prompted huge conversations online."

Commenting on the accomplishments of the national incubator, Christopher Callahan, the founding dean of the Cronkite School at ASU, described it as "the formula for success...The work of those 11 students had more distribution than the work of the entire News21 program in its history combined."

And like all News21 content, the 23 stories produced by the national project are freely available to any interested publication. Speaking with Gilger before the holiday, she was keen to point out that, in addition to it being great investigative reporting, most of the national project's output was "fairly evergreen." Her observation is anecdotally supported by the clips from Thanksgiving weekend. Both were drawn from the archives of the "Traveling Dangerously" series.

Innovate or Investigate?

Those two text-heavy stories embody the challenge at the heart of News21: The program seeks the widest possible exposure possible for its students, but it is also focused on fostering innovation. With a deep investigative project like the "Traveling Dangerously" series, there was just not much scope for innovative storytelling.

This reliance on text-based reporting is partly due to the fact that it is much harder to get innovative projects published in national news outlets.

"Breaking a story or breaking new ground on a story is way easier to get attention for than analytical, feature-y work," said Brown, the program's founding director. "One of the ambiguities that people involved in the program have [to deal with is] we all know that investigative journalism is hard to do and when you do it well you get attention for it. The stuff that's deeper, richer, more multimedia is harder to get the larger media to pick up on it, see it for what it is, and distribute it. That's one of the balancing acts the program has."

The current administrators are aware of the challenges this dual focus poses.

"Our mission is to do innovative and investigative journalism. It is difficult for a single project to be both," said Brannon, the current national director. "Those are both measures of success."

No Time To Reinvent the Wheel


Groundbreaking investigations or cutting edge innovations would both be better served by more preparation for the intense summer program. Whether, like in the national incubator the work began in the spring, or, as was the case at Medill where student Andrew Paley said they had only a "handful of meetings" before the summer, all the fellows I spoke with felt News21 would work better with more lead time.

The Medill incubator made great strides in soliciting audience feedback -- something previous iterations of News21 lacked -- but these efforts were hampered by time constraints. Talking about how his team elicited 300-word blog posts from Latino community leaders, Paley said, "that's one of the things we really hit our stride on six weeks in. It's probably something we would have explored more," had they started community engagement options sooner.

In place of staging preparatory sessions during the school year, administrators could also save students time for reporting by making the website design process more streamlined. As it stands, some five years' worth of project websites are currently scattered about the web, loosely connected by various iterations of the News21 host site.

"I'm quite interested in visualization and ways to tell stories that are non-traditional and scalable," Paley said.

Sustained Focus in the Future?

News21 administrators often steer the program in an entirely different direction each year. Which raises the question: What happens to all the leads and issues that were exposed but left unexplored?

"We hoped at the beginning that there would be a way to institutionalize things far more than we were then," Brown said. "It would be really good for more and more experimentation to take place in all 12 months so that the coverage doesn't die with the start of the new school year. These schools could really become mini-ProPublicas, where the faculty and students are engaged in covering a topic quasi-permanently."

By way of example, Brown suggested Columbia could cover Wall Street while USC could stay on issues related to immigration and borders. The stories they produced could then be available to newspapers and television stations for nationwide syndication. "That was one of the things we dreamed of. And maybe we'll get to that sooner or later," he said.


The program's administrators are likely considering that among many other possible models for the future of News21 at their next bi-annual meeting. As ASU's Callahan told me, because the Carnegie-Knight grant only runs through the end of the summer of 2011, it will be "the last year of News21 in its current configuration." And for the next grant period, "there is literally nothing that's not on the table."

"Could I foresee New21 growing over time where you have multiple projects throughout the year?" he asked. Not next year, Callahan said, but "could I see it down the road? Yeah, I could." Echoing Merrill Brown, Callahan went on to say, "I think the analogy would be more like a ProPublica or Center for Public Integrity: A project-oriented multimedia site."

News21 has already come a long way since its founding under Brown and it appears to be moving in the right direction with Callahan, Gilger, Brannon and Downie. The new leadership still has a number of issues to address, namely the balance between investigation and innovation, and the continuity of design and focus. But if they do, the quality of reporting from News21 incubators and innovations to journalism they have produced will likely continue to improve.

Corbin Hiar is the DC-based associate editor at MediaShift and climate blogger for UN Dispatch and the Huffington Post. He is a regular contributor to More Intelligent Life, an online arts and culture publication of the Economist Group, and has also written about environmental issues on Economist.com and the website of The New Republic. Before Corbin moved to the Capital to join the Ben Bagdikian Fellowship Program at Mother Jones, he worked a web internship at The Nation in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @CorbinHiar.


Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by the USC Annenberg nine-month M.A. in Specialized Journalism. USC's highly customized degree programs are tailored to the experienced journalist and gifted amateur. Learn more about how USC Annenberg is immersed in tomorrow.

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December 09 2010


J-Schools Shift from Learning Labs to Major Media Players

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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 June 2006, I published "On Behalf of Journalism: A Manifesto for Change." It examined nine propositions likely to have an effect on the future of journalism, and culminated in a number of recommendations. They focused on the role of corporations, the rise of not-for-profit media, the responsibilities of journalists, the role of government and of the public, and what was called (rather lamely, it seems in retrospect) "new forms of media."

Over the ensuing years, I have reexamined the Manifesto in light of the fast-moving changes in media and -- most recently -- with an eye toward what it might offer journalism education. (You can read my latest version of by downloading this PDF. The 2008 version is also available here in PDF.)

In pondering this new application for the Manifesto, I am struck by how powerfully two of its themes in particular resound in the world of journalism education. First, as legacy media are hollowed out by the collapse of their economic model, educational institutions are playing a far more powerful role in helping to meet the information needs of the public.

Second, the journalism academy is a key player in the search for new economic models for journalism. A myriad of new economic possibilities has appeared, from micropayments, pay walls and search-related advertising to methods that enable news consumers to opt-in to pay.

A Greater Role for Non-profits

Perhaps the most striking change for journalism schools is the degree to which we have shifted from being learning labs whose actual journalism (if any) was limited in its distribution and impact, to being significant -- even major -- media players in our communities. This is not to ignore substantial local news outlets such as at the Missouri School of Journalism, which has long operated in Columbia, Mo., on television, radio, newspaper and magazine platforms. Nonetheless, it is clear that in journalism schools across the United States major projects are increasingly making substantial contributions toward filling the holes left by the hollowing out of local "legacy" media.

In their October 19, 2009, report, "The Reconstruction of American Journalism," Len Downie (former executive editor of the Washington Post) and scholar Michael Schudson cataloged numerous ways in which colleges and universities are contributing to independent local news reporting, from the southern Florida alliance of newspapers using work from Florida International University to Northeastern University students' investigative reports appearing in the Boston Globe.

Screen shot 2010-12-09 at 9.26.18 AM.pngSimilarly, the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism is a partner, along with the New York Times, in the Bay Citizen, whose content appears in the Bay Area edition of the Times. New York University's collaboration with the New York Times, The Local - East Village, appears on the newspaper's website and includes coverage of the university's immediate neighborhood.

In a speech at our school, USC Annenberg, Schudson said that "more journalism schools are going into the business of actually producing journalism." Our work mirrors several of the above-mentioned models. Neon Tommy, the voice of Annenberg Digital News, is our own web-based report, including content from classes (on science, for example, or religion) original work from the Neon Tommy staff (revealing swine flu deaths covered up by county officials) and collaborations with KPCC and with the Los Angeles Times in its Homicide Report, which focuses on documenting the lives of murder victims. Other projects have been completed in collaboration the Center for Investigative Reporting and California Watch, and appeared in the Los Angeles Times, KQED and newspapers across California.

Increased Role for Schools

So, a great deal of work is being done by journalism schools in meeting the public's need for high quality information. But what are the particular contributions of the academy? We are seeking to answer that question, too, at USC Annenberg. For example, a project based in the city of Alhambra seeks to identify how a community incorporating different language groups can come together to solve civic challenges. The Alhambra Source is a community news website that aims to bolster civic engagement in measurable ways. Researchers, led by professor Sandra Ball-Rokeach, worked in Alhambra for two years before building a site tailored to the community's specific information needs. Among the program's goals is to build a model for local media outlets in ethnically diverse communities.

"Reproducing some of the journalism of the past is not necessarily a high value activity for J-schools," said Donica Mensing, associate professor at the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. "For this work to have value, the standards, organization, editing and networking of new models must be incorporated into the creation and distribution of the journalism. We owe it to students and to the health of the discipline to push for new skills and mindsets for the future, and avoid absorbing all energy into reproducing work we already know how to do."

Interestingly, this increased role for journalism schools -- providing more journalism to a public ever more in need of information in the public interest, while having a greater impact, more notice and more influence -- raises its own questions for the university. How do you report "without fear or favor" from within an institution that emphasizes collegiality and must balance such contending interests as protecting student privacy, raising money and burnishing community relations? Independence is one of the central values of ethical reporting. Carving out that independence within the university will not come easily.

Economic Support for Journalism

News corporations have experienced substantial economic shock, with several newspaper companies in bankruptcy, many newspapers having folded, and the remaining ones undergoing round after round of severe cuts. Yet the need for those who provide the news to keep an eye primarily on the public interest has not gone away; rather, it has been distributed. There are now multitudes of news providers. How they do their work, and what principles they hold dear, continues to matter greatly.

This opens two interesting arenas for journalism schools. One is the need for research on new economic models to supplement -- some would say replace -- the models that have been collapsing as the barrier to publication has fallen and new ways of advertising have arisen. This is a center of significant activity in the journalism academy. The City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism has a New Business Models for News Project under the leadership of Jeff Jarvis that conducts experiments and research about revenue possibilities for news.


Similarly, Arizona State University's Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, directed by Dan Gillmor, seeks to teach ASU students entrepreneurial thinking and skills for the new media environment they'll be entering.

At USC, our research and experimentation has led us in several directions. We joined with the Knight Foundation to bring to Los Angeles the Spot.us model born in the Bay Area, which seeks to test the notion of crowdfunded journalism. Another important part of the equation is foundation support. Annenberg's Center on Health Reporting is funded entirely by the California HealthCare Foundation. Being part of a foundation-funded start-up provides invaluable experience in the challenges of protecting journalistic independence in this very different funding environment.

Moving from experimentation with new funding models to creating an environment of entrepreneurship for our students, we ran last summer a two-week, fellowship-supported experiment in collaboration with USC's business and engineering schools, bringing together our own journalism students with students from those two disciplines to develop news applications for mobile phones.

Meanwhile, Annenberg has also launched an Innovation Lab, supported by corporate contributions, enabling the research and development of new ways of providing information and new ways of supporting it.

As this new world of widely varying funding models emerges, new ethical challenges arise. The journalism academy will be essential to solving these effectively. For example: It is widely agreed that a key ethic of the new media environment is transparency. If news consumers can identify the sources of funding, for instance, of a given information outlet, they have an invaluable piece of information in judging its credibility.

Yet J-Lab's Jan Schaffer said recently that she is finding many foundation funders reluctant to be cited publicly as supporters of these new media outlets. Clearly new media forms require new ethical formulations, and the academy has a role here. The University of Wisconsin-Madison recently sponsored a symposium on ethics that included a look at donors, non-profit journalism and new investigative models. It issued a report on ethics for the new investigative newsroom. (See the PDF link within the preceding URL).


My review draws one clear conclusion: In the old media world, with its top-down monopolistic configuration, the problems were there to be solved by a relatively few people operating in a rigid environment. Most of those challenges are pretty much the same: It's a constant struggle to keep the public's information needs at the center of our thinking. It's unclear how we will pay for high-quality journalism. Those doing journalism (or in any way serving the public's information needs) must be held accountable.

But if the problems remain identical, they now rest in the hands of multitudes. For good and for ill, the old challenges are newly distributed throughout the population, and the solutions -- if and when they come -- will come from the many rather than the few. It's a more unsettling prospect than the familiar world of controlling monopolies and rigidly fixed patterns. It is also, in my view, a more promising one.

Geneva Overholser is a professor and director of the journalism school at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. Previously, she held the Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Reporting for the Missouri School of Journalism, where she was based in the school's Washington bureau. She was editor of the Des Moines Register from 1988 to 1995, where she led the paper to a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. While at the Register, she also earned recognition as Editor of the Year by the National Press Foundation and was named "The Best in the Business" by American Journalism Review.
She has been a columnist for the Columbia Journalism Review and frequent contributor to Poynter.org. She is co-editor, with Kathleen Hall Jamieson, of the volume "The Press," part of the Oxford University Press Institutions of American Democracy series.

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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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December 06 2010


UBC Students, Globe and Mail Investigate Hidden Cost of Shrimp

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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.

Twenty-something university students usually head to Thailand in search of exotic adventures. But when a group of 10 University of British Columbia journalism students went almost a year ago, they were searching for the untold story of shrimp, a seafood delicacy that has become common in North America.

Led by associate professor Peter Klein, the students spoke to exploited Burmese migrant workers, documented devastated mangrove swamps, and visited labs where shrimp are tested for carcinogenic chemicals.

Their work was published recently in partnership with Canada's newspaper of record, the Globe and Mail, together with a companion micro-site to showcase the breadth and depth of the students' work.

"The Globe was preparing to do a series on global food, and we had just finished this reporting in Thailand, so we discussed with the editors the idea of a collaboration," said Klein, a former "60 Minutes" producer. "We shared transcripts of our interviews with one of their print reporters, and our students gave the reporter some advice on what we found in the field."

The project is an example of a growing trend of partnerships between major news organizations and universities, and it highlights the role of journalism schools as homes for investigative reporting projects.

This is the second project of UBC's International Reporting program. The first documentary, Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground, was produced in partnership with PBS Frontline/World and went on to win an Emmy Award in September for investigative reporting.

A Nuanced Story

The International Reporting program takes 10 journalism students abroad to cover under-reported international issues. The idea of looking at the real cost of those all-you-can-eat platters of cheap shrimp came out of a pitch by one of the students, Kate Allen.

mangrove.jpgShe suggested a general story about seafood, the ocean and fisheries. As the students researched the topic, the issue of shrimp aquaculture started to take shape.

"There are environmental concerns, human rights issues, and even health issues that can affect us back home in North America and Europe, where most farmed shrimp ends up," said Klein.

For the investigation, the students visited several sites in Thailand. They interviewed exploited Burmese migrants who are paid a pittance for their labor, filmed the underwater effects of shrimp runoff on the country's reefs and reported on how the clear-cutting of mangrove swamps by shrimp farmers contributed to the effects of the 2004 tsunami.

"It's a nuanced story," said student Kerry Blackadar. "We went there expecting a black-and-white story about run-offs from shrimp farms impacting reefs and mangroves, but realized the complexities of the industry when we were in Thailand."

Allen, the student who suggested the topic that eventually became this project, said,
"By the end of our Thai trip, we were left with a palpable sense of how North America's raging appetite for one tiny species of crustacean had done serious harm to this beautiful country."

Multimedia Treatment

The students produced a web video project for the Globe that offers a snapshot of the impact of cheap shrimp. The journalism school also produced a micro-site that highlights different aspects of the story, drawing from more than 100 hours of footage shot in the field.

shrimp_telephone.jpg"This project was really well suited for a multimedia piece," said Klein. "There are several distinct themes we addressed, and in a linear TV piece we would have had to do awkward transitions between these themes. In this project, we were able to separate out the themes and address them as individual video clips."

The website was created using WordPress, which is the content management system we use for our student online publications. I was involved in supervising the site, which was developed by student Erin Empey.

"This worked well as a multimedia project because of its complexity," she said. "By using several multimedia tools and breaking the video into chapters, we were able to present the nuances of the story clearly."

Here's one of the videos produced for the project:

Non-Profit Investigative Reporting

The website was the culmination of a year-long investigation that started back in September 2009, when the students embarked on the second year of a new course called International Reporting.

The course is an example of foundation-funded journalism. It was launched in 2008 thanks to a generous donation from Alison Lawton of the Mindset Foundation.

For the shrimp micro-site, the school also secured funding from the MITACS Accelerate internship program. The program provides federal and provincial funding to offer students the opportunity to apply their research to real-world issues.

Funding programs like these can help established media undertake innovative research and development projects. Last year, the UBC journalism school also received a grant from MITACS to partner with CBC Radio 3 to create a Canadian music wiki.

These kinds of partnerships are evolving as news outlets, foundations and journalism schools pool their resources, particularly at a time when established media are devoting fewer resources to investigative reporting

"This is classic investigative journalism, the kind of reporting that rarely gets done anymore on international topics," said Klein.

Alfred Hermida is an online news pioneer and digital media scholar. 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.
news21 small.jpg

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 ».

November 30 2010


Team of volunteer journalists wants to train locals in conflict zones to tell their own stories, improve their lives

What if online video could prevent genocide? That’s what three USC Annenberg School graduate students wondered when they hopped a flight to Rwanda a few years ago, Flip cameras in their carry-ons.

“The idea was, in a time where YouTube exists, it’s immoral for genocide to exist in human history,” Jon Vidar told me recently. The group wanted to give survivors tools to tell their own stories. “Honestly, we were pretty idealistic going in.” Since that first visit to Rwanda, Vidar, a freelance photojournalist, and his journalist friends have taken the concept to neighboring countries and then, earlier this year, to Iraq. Their ad hoc trips have morphed into a nonprofit, kept going by volunteers, called The Tiziano Project, named for an Italian journalist who liked to go where he shouldn’t. Their mission is straightforward: Train locals in conflict zones and post-conflict zones in the craft of journalism, particularly new media, and give them the tools they need to tell their own stories.

“We’re trying to train locals to be journalists,” Vidar said.

The group’s most recent project, Tiziano360, trained 12 locals in Iraq in new media, producing a website that “documents the life, culture, and news in present day Iraqi Kurdistan.” Vidar worked in the Kurdish region of Turkey for four years doing archaeological research, a motive for the region selection. Logistically, it was easier to work on the Iraq side of the border, Vidar said.

The site has a slick design and the content is high quality. It recently won an award from the New Media Institute for multimedia storytelling. But Tiziano also has a practical aim. “A direct goal of the project is job creation,” Vidar said. “We don’t care where people get jobs, as long as they are using the skills in new media storytelling.”

Four of the participants credit the project with new job offers. Other trainees from past projects now string for Western outlets.

“The best thing in this project was the practical aspect of it,” Shivan Soto, who participated in the Iraq project, wrote in an email. “[It] was a very good and new experience for me.”

Since picking up new skills, Soto has been offered a variety of gigs from news organizations and NGOs. And another participant, Sahar Alani, took a job with a large corporation in the region working in new media.

For now, Tiziano is funded project-by-project. For the 360 experiment, they submitted a pitch to a Facebook contest backed by the JP Morgan Chase Community Giving program. They won $25,000, Andrew McGregor, a Tiziano founder, told me.

“During the competition, we really motivated the Kurdish community [on Facebook],” Vidar told me. “We had 600 Kurdish friends, friends in the government. We had friends in NGOs.”

Next up for Tiziano is a project that will start by working with students in Los Angeles and move on to the Congo. The trainer himself is a genocide survivor.

September 20 2010


Professors Speak Out About Changes Coming to J-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.

This article was co-authored by Abby Moon.

A previous article on MediaShift mined the OurBlook series of interviews with leading journalists and academics to outline some of the skills that future journalists will need. Interviewees described the future journalist as a multi-tasker who is technologically savvy, a versatile storyteller who can produce content for any format and a brand and community manager who cultivates a constant and interactive conversation with their readership.

In order for future journalists to live up to these high expectations, journalism programs, departments and curricula need to adapt to the changes in order to better prepare students for a career in a fast-paced, technology-driven field.

OurBlook is currently conducting an interview series on journalism departments and how they are adapting to the new media landscape. Here are some of the observations and recommendations we collected:

  • Journalism departments across America are converging classes and majors to become more streamlined.
  • Curricula should include more social media, production and multimedia training.
  • Traditional skills and ethics are still vital to good journalism, regardless of the platform.
  • Professors need to stay current, embrace technology and find ways to incorporate new media in the classroom.
  • Some professors may be resistant to change or may feel negatively toward the industry, but journalism is not dead -- it's evolving.

Experts Weigh In

"I think increasingly we're seeing companies ask their journalists to be armed with a pad, a pen, a camera, a laptop, a mobile device ... It's being able to take a story and be fluent in a variety of formats and being able to produce for those formats... It's understanding how to repurpose your content across those platforms." -- Tom Ksiazek, communications professor at Villanova University

"I think a lot of the schools are being very slow to react, to be honest, I think there are individual pockets within each program where an individual teacher is being very innovative in terms of new media and entrepreneurialism, but curricula as a whole are not changing very quickly." -- Andy Mendelson, chair of journalism at Temple University

"The technological aspect is important and I think that when schools are operating under tight budgets, there is that demand of being able to keep up with that technology. But the technology changes so quickly ... It's that continuous updating and upgrading of equipment that has to take place in a tight resource environment. I think that's a real challenge, but ultimately my default position on some of that is that you have to learn the craft. The technology that you have is critically important but ultimately you can have the most expensive camera in your hand or the best computer to use, but if you don't know how to go out and gather content and tell stories, then that's not going to be the make or break for a student." -- Andy Nelson, the R.M. Seaton Professional Journalism Chair at Kansas State University

"Journalism schools teach very specific skills - writing skills, reporting skills, and with respect to those programs, I think that the knowledge base has to be expanded. The efficiency I see, which is one thing we are trying to address here at my school, is that those skills can be learned in a very short period of time - how to be fair to both sides, how to be objective, how to be balanced. But I think what is really lacking is this knowledge base, for example, about economics, about science, about history. Students don't have that context anymore, and I think it's really hurting journalism education. What I think journalism fans are racing to do is keep up with the technology but we're missing the forest for the trees." -- Mary Cardaras, chair of the Digital Media & Communications Department at the New England Institute of Art


"There's never been a more challenging, exciting and scary time to get into journalism, nor a more important moment. Our schools are in the front-line of the struggle over the future of American journalism because it's our students who will shape the new media world and our mission to help them develop the values, sensibility and tools to do so." -- Glenn Frankel, incoming director of the School of Journalism of the University of Texas at Austin

"Journalism grads need to be flexible -- not morally or ethically -- but about the methods, distribution means and methods of gathering and sharing stories. They need to understand all the available tools -- not so they are experts in using those tools -- so that they know what is possible and can use the right tool for the job." -- Jeremy Gilbert, assistant professor, Medill, Northwestern University

"A lot of programs are feeling the negativity that pervades the journalism industry right now. A lot of people are falling into a depressing cynicism that students pick up. That's too bad, because I believe the times provide amazing opportunities for graduates. It's not just the faculty. We have to be careful what guest speakers to bring into classes. Many professionals have one message: 'Get out! Change majors!' That's too bad. We must remember that what we do is essential for democracy and there will always be a need for journalists." -- David Cuillier, journalism professor at the University of Arizona

"In a nutshell, all journalism majors should be able to perform 'new media' skills at a professional standard. New media skills include digital photography, desktop publishing, and online proficiency. However, we encourage good writing skills first and foremost. We also emphasize the importance of being willing to learn new things. The journalism field is ever-changing. The recent growth in social networking is one example of how the field changes very rapidly." -- Mia Moody, journalism professor at Baylor University


"Technology is the key. This is where the money and opportunities are. Technology first, journalism second. While that's frustrating to so many of us, myself included, since we're very passionate about great editorial -- this is the reality today for most grads." -- Cynthia Good, founding editor and CEO of PINK & Little PINK Book

"At the Greenlee School we opted for a 'converged' curriculum to match the converged media landscape. What that means, simply, is we eliminated silos ... those emphases like newspapers, photojournalism, magazine, broadcasting, etc. That's not to say that traditional media aren't important ... they are; the difference is, in today's digital environment, our journalists and advertisers must learn to write, report and create across platforms. And students aspiring to work in PR must know each intimately as well. A converged curriculum also makes you focus on what's important and what isn't. So our operations are as streamlined as they are inclusive." -- Michael Bugeja, director of Iowa State University's Greenlee School of Journalism

"Become current. Stay current. Develop working ongoing partnerships with the best digital minds in the professional community that you can find. Understand that you need to work harder than ever to remain relevant. Also, it would be really smart to pay attention to IDEO and design thinking as you think about the future of news." -- David Slayden, executive director of Boulder Digital Works at the University of Colorado at Boulder, offering advice for professors


"It will take a while to get the wave of people through graduate school who are prepared to teach in these new media areas. But in the short term, the advice I would give is to use temporary lecturers, visiting professionals, editors-in-residence -- people who have recent professional experience, are perhaps between jobs. [They] have an opportunity to get their feet wet in the classroom to see if it's something they would like to do, and to use a series of short courses. We have something in our catalog called 'special topics' which enables us to create a course without having to go through the university curriculum committee." -- Kenton Bird, director of the School of Journalism and Mass Media at the University of Idaho

Sandra Ordonez calls herself a web astronaut who has been helping organizations navigate the Internet since 1997. Currently, she helps run OurBlook.com, a collaborative online forum that gathers interviews from today's top leaders in the hopes of finding tomorrow's solutions. Since December 2008, the site has been conducting a Future of Journalism interview series. Sandra also heads up the Facebook page, "Bicultural and Multicultural People Rule." Previously, she was the Communications Manager for Wikipedia. She graduated from American University with a double degree in International Relations and Public Relations.

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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 24 2010


Cardiff University journalism school to hold alumni conference

Cardiff University’s Centre for Journalism is celebrating its 40th anniversary in October with a conference for its alumni focused on ‘Tomorrow’s Journalists’.

Speakers will include alumni who have gone on to become key figures in journalism, including Ben Brown from BBC News and Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News, who will chair sessions at the conference. More recent graduates including Hattie Brett from Grazia, Sally Rourke from ITV and Hannah Waldram from the Guardian, will also speak on the day.

The conference will be followed by a gala dinner.Similar Posts:

July 09 2010


Rethinking the Role of the Journalist in the Participatory Age

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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.

Students who dream of a career in journalism are entering the profession at a time when the question of who is a journalist, and even what is journalism, is open to interpretation. The function of journalism is still to provide independent, reliable and accurate information considered vital to a vibrant democracy. But defining who is a journalist is much harder.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a journalist as "a person who writes for newspapers or magazines or prepares news or features to be broadcast on radio or television." The definition is less about what a journalist actually does and more about whom they work for. It reflects how the profession of journalism developed in a mass media system, based on the production of news by paid professionals who decided what the public needs to know, when it needs to know it and how it will know it.

The media industry is going through a profound transformation that is disrupting just about every aspect of the business. Journalists are at the center of a transformation that is challenging norms and routines that have remained, until now, highly consistent. It all amounts to, in the words of media scholar Mark Deuze, "one of the biggest challenges facing journalism studies and education in the 21st century."

The new journalist needs to learn and understand how news and information works in a digital world, instead of simply applying established norms and practices that may no longer be effective.

New Technologies, New Mindset

Studies show that journalists have been reluctant to give up their traditional gatekeeping role. BBC News executive Peter Horrocks has described this mindset as fortress journalism (PDF) -- seeing the profession as a practice to be defended. As a result, journalism as a profession largely considers the media environment to be the same as before, only now more technologized.

New media technologies do not just offer journalists new ways of doing their old job. A newspaper online is not the same as a newspaper in print. On paper, the newspaper delivers a bundle of stories, ads and amusements, such as the crossword puzzle. On the web, the newspaper package is unbundled into individual fragments. The stable, hierarchy of information in the printed newspaper falls apart online.


Scholars Colin Lankshear and Michelle Knobel have researched what they describe as the shift from a physical-industrial mindset to a cyberspatial, post-industrial mindset. They write that "the world is being changed in some quite fundamental ways as a result of people imagining and exploring new ways of doing things and new ways of being that are made possible by new tools and techniques."

Literacy has traditionally been described as the ability to read and write. New literacies generally refer to new forms of literacy made possible by digital technologies, such as blogging, uploading photos or sharing videos. According to new literacies, media is collaborative, distributed, and participatory nature.

Participatory and Collaborative Journalism

Let's look at one of the ways this applies to journalism. Traditionally, journalism has been about producing finished products by designated individuals and teams, based on individual expertise and intelligence, operating in a shared physical space. However, new literacies research suggests that the changes taking place challenge fundamental norms, conventions, and routines of journalism.

One example is the ability of the audience to report and distribute the news in photographs, videos, and text, which undermines the monopoly on reporting that journalists traditionally enjoyed. Anyone can do an act of journalism, from sending a tweet about a G20 protest to uploading a photo of police and demonstrators.

tom-rosenstiel.jpgSeen through the lens of new literacies research, digital media is more participatory, collaborative and distributed, and less finalized, individualized and author-centric than previous forms of media. The journalist still matters. But as Tom Rosenstiel has suggested, they shift from being the gatekeeper to being an authenticator of information, a sense-maker to derive meaning, a navigator to help orient audiences and a community leader to engage audiences.

Both those taking their first steps into journalism and those who have already followed a well-trodden path need to figure out where they fit in. The role of the journalist is being determined by the complex interplay between media technologies, professional practices, and societal factors.

Journalism developed as a relatively closed culture for the production of knowledge, based on a system of editorial control. Yet new media are characterized by their connected and collaborative nature. The challenge for journalism, and the journalist, is to find a place along the continuum between control and connection, and between a closed and a collaborative media culture.

This piece is adapted from a chapter appearing in The New Journalist: Roles, Skills, and Critical Thinking, a new textbook for journalism students.

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.

news21 small.jpg

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 ».

May 05 2010


March 25 2010


eCampus News: Journalism students urged to write Wikipedia articles

Despite very well-heeled objections to the site in academic departments the world over, students in the University of Denver journalism school are contributing to Wikipedia as part of their course:

“There’s a sense of anxiety about it, because professors have a pretty negative attitude toward Wikipedia,” said journalism instructor Christof Demont-Heinrich, who first assigned the Wikipedia writing to students in his introductory course taught during the university’s recent winter semester.

“Students are leery about mentioning Wikipedia, because they might be subjected to criticism (…) But I tell them it’s an online source of knowledge that just has some information that might be questionable, but that doesn’t mean you have to dismiss all of [its content].”

Demont-Heinrich goes on to add that, even though Wikipedia doesn’t require “old-school shoe leather reporting”, students are being taught how to “thoroughly research a topic before publishing to a site viewed by more than 68 million people a month”.

Full story at this link…

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