Archive for the ‘Journalism Education’ Category

The Credit Economy?

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

I just gave the students in my Public Affairs Reporting for New Media class their first quiz. Overall, not bad. But I have to report this piece of breaking news:

Only 1 out of 16 students said that it was UNethical to “download a photo from the Web server of a blogger, upload it to your server, using it on your site along with credit to the original creator.”

I’m dying to talk with them about this on Thursday to hear more about their rationale. Maybe it says something about how they see bloggers. Maybe it says something about the way they see ownership of content.

What do you think?

Fertile Failure: Live Blogging Class Discussion

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Updated: 2:51 p.m. ET

Fail fast, fail cheap. Isn’t that what they say? Well, today I did it. My first attempt to live blog a class discussion didn’t work out. But neither did my first attempt to … well, do just about anything…

No matter. Here’s what I learned… (more…)

A Lab for ‘The Reconstruction of American Journalism’

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

This week is the first of a new semester in my Public Affairs Reporting for New Media class — a journalism class in which the students must work 30 hours with a community partner over the course of the semester. Our goal this semester — expose the students to all of the journalism models that Len Downie and Michael Schudson outline as potential replacements for a decline in public affairs reporting at newspapers.

This semester, the 18 students in the class will be divided among four partners:

  • the North Carolina Center for Voter Education, a non-profit funded largely by foundation money and private donations;
  • OrangePolitics.org, a liberal blog about local politics run part-time by a single “citizen jouranlist”;
  • N.C. DataNet, a newsletter of from UNC-Chapel Hill’s Program on Public Life, edited by a former News & Observer reporter and opinion editor;
  • a public broadcast outlet here in North Carolina.

If any of these sources will be part of the reconstruction of American journalism, the students in the class will help determine how it’s reconstructed. At the very least, the students will be able to report back to the rest of us more details about what they find in these laboratories of post-newspaper news.

Stay tuned… and add your suggested reading for the class via the Delicious bookmark tag JOMC491-examples-s10.

News Organizations Should Not Be Online

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Monday kicked off a new semester, and I started by challenging the students in my online news production class with this statement: News organizations should not have a Web site.

The statement picks up on a session I led at last summer’s N.C. Press Association’s Newspaper Academy. In a time of tight budgets, news organizations must be focused on delivering their core product, service or experience. Everything they do must be justified — including having a Web site. Unless a news organization can clearly state why they have an online presence, they should drop it.

The students’ responses focused on the Web as a platform for competing on breaking news and for reaching audiences — especially young people — where they are. My goal for the semester is to help them see that online journalism is a wonderful tool for telling more memorable and relevant news stories, and not just about 24/7 distribution.

Make your anonymous argument after the jump — can you articulate a clear, rational, viable reason that your news organization should be online? Or make your public comment for attribution here.

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Examples of UNC’s Online Student Journalism

Friday, January 8th, 2010

With a new semester about to begin on Monday, I wanted to share some of the work done by some of the students in UNC-Chapel Hill’s JOMC 463: Newsdesk (PDF) class last semester. The assignment was this: Do an online profile of a person or organization using interactivity and multiple media. They were limited by producing the story in a somewhat wonky version of a Drupal-based CMS that I had set up for the class.

The bottom line is this: most of this student work was very good, and it’s important to show industry and other journalism students how we’re preparing the next generation to lead change in newsrooms. Students are young and therefore their work is not perfect, but it can be awfully good. Here are three examples, and the reason that each gives me hope for the future of journalism. (more…)

Vote: Online Journalism Textbook Title

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Alright, wise crowd. I need you to show me what you’re made of.

I’m writing for college students a book about online journalism. The book connects the traditional elements and values of journalism with new ways of telling stories and engaging audiences. It will start with a discussion of online news values and elements and the unique characteristics of the online news audience. Then it’ll take readers through the gamut of digital media skills and tools, and wrap up with a section that talks about how to make sensible use of the tools to create journalism that’s more engaging and relevant.

But… what should I call it? Please vote below and then leave any comments here.

Rerun Posts: Who Drives the Vision? Who Takes the Risk?

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

The question that keeps coming up in recent discussions about experimentation and fertile failure is this: Who will drive the vision and who will take the risk that journalism needs to get over this hump?

As a preamble, I’m re-running two blog posts (…hmm, I wonder if “the long tail” is going to make the word re-run go the way of the turntable…anyway…) that highlight the challenge and two potential answers:

After the jump, I’m looking for where we might be most likely to find the fertile failures and experimentors that journalism needs.

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J-Schools: Breeding Ground for Fertile Failure

Monday, June 15th, 2009

For a lot of very good reasons the word “failure” is not welcome in newsrooms. The aversion probably begins in  j-schools when we give automatic Fs to students who write news stories about “Thornberg” or “Thornburgh” instead of “Thornburg,” it continues with 2 a.m. panic attacks about transposing quotes, and probably calcifies completely with the fear of being sued for libel. In short, journalists don’t get paid for making mistakes. Good. They shouldn’t.

But a failure is not always a mistake, especially in the context of an experiment that fails to prove a widely held belief. Experiments that fail often lead to entirely new lines of inquiry and new understanding about the world. To enjoy this kind of fertile failure that yields innovation, you have to pursue success in the right way. Fertile failure is most likely when you tackle a very specific, very big question with small experiments that are conducted as quickly and cheaply as possible.

Universities, where failure leads both to the creation of new ideas as well as the ability to shed old ideas, should be ideal partners for risk-averse news organizations. Here are a few ideas about how journalism schools can be breeding grounds for fertile failure.

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Innovation Isn’t Enough

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

The role of innovation in news has come up in several conversations I’ve had with folks over the last few weeks, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the pursuit of innovation may be fun as all get out, but on its own it does not do enough to move the industry forward. What we need instead of innovation is experimentation.

What’s the difference between innovation and experimentation? Innovation only values success. Experimentation also values failure.

(more…)

Reflection: The Secret to Teaching Journalism to Digital Natives

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

A brief story in The News & Observer today notes how journalism education at UNC and Duke are changing. When I spoke with reporter Eric Ferreri a few weeks ago for his story, he asked about the difficulty — and perhaps futility — of teaching “new media” to students who probably can’t remember a world without the Internet.

As Ferreri notes in the story, I think there’s a significant difference between using technology and understanding its social, political and economic implications — just like there’s a difference between driving a car and being able to repair its engine. (This is why it’s still important to teach students HTML.)

The challenge for educators is to get students to begin to reflect in both positive and normative terms about how they communicate in different media environments.

Reflection is a key component in service learning, but it’s also critical to add a level of consciousness to any field that has developed informally and organically. Journalism students don’t need classroom education to BE in the world — they can acquire skills more efficiently just by doing internships. But they do need classroom education in order to EXPLAIN the world and to LEAD it.

Our role as journalism professors in a world where anyone can publish a blog is to develop leadership, not merely train practitioners.