Lately, I have been doing a lot of thinking about journalism schools and what journalism students are not learning.
One of the problems is that there’s too much talk. Educators have known about the Internet, multimedia storytelling and convergence for years.
No more excuses.
I realize that this post constitutes talk, but I would like to think of it more as a call to action. To make sure change happens at J-schools, I propose hiring a Resident Butt-Kicker.
I plan to expand on these in future posts, but here’s where we need to start:
1. Online first, print second: Print is not dead, but the idea of a purely “print” major should be thrown out the window. Who wants to pay money to be taught in preparation for the last century?
Start with the essential concepts of writing, reporting, editing, critical thinking, law and ethics, but don’t limit it to merely one form of storytelling. Also, online journalism should not be some 400- or 500-level class that only some students take â€“ it should be drilled into everyone’s head early.
2. Think outside the classroom: How can you teach journalism without practical experience?
Ideas: Structure your class like a newsroom and provide an outlet for publication (e.g. class Web site); require students to work on campus media; require an internship and help place them; etc.
3. Old dogs, learn new tricks: There’s a disconnect among different classes, depending on the professor, as well as an even greater disconnect between professors who have been out of the newsroom for years and those who just came from the newsroom.
The journalism world is moving quickly and schools need to keep pace with their local news outlets so students may be viable job and internship candidates. Just like journalists in the professional world, professors need to be able to adapt and learn new concepts and skills.
Also, why are we being taught in a strict, limited mindset (i.e. print) that we will need to unlearn later? Don’t teach me for today, or even tomorrow.
A journalism school should look ahead, being innovative and proactive in its approach, not reactive. Professors need to be a part of that.
4. Selecting J-students: There should be a multi-dimensional, more personalized interview process for students applying to an academic journalism program. Program directors should ask students about their specific interests in the field, evaluating if the candidate is open minded and willing to evolve.
5. Grades are failing: The grading process needs to change. It seems as if more students worry about getting good grades than actually learning. Grades aren’t worthless, but learning – and getting good experience – matters more.
Unintended, entrepreneurial failure (i.e. not because of laziness) should be embraced and utilized as a teaching tool it is part of the learning process. Thus, students should be encouraged to go out and make mistakes while they are still in school.
6. Establish mentor programs: I hit on this general concept in my Top Ten List of Tips for Journalism Students (No. 7).
Upperclassmen should be paired with underclassmen in a formal, voluntary peer counseling system. Furthermore, every student should meet with a faculty adviser or mentor from time to time and not just to discuss next semester’s schedule.
SPJ recently started a mentor program for members, which is great. Nevertheless, it can’t replace the local insight of a student or professor at your own J-school.
Weigh in: What do you think of these ideas? Students, what else do you want to see done at your school?
Note: The original time stamp on this post was incorrect. It has since been corrected.
Allison Bezold-Diaz, who graduated from the University of Miami in spring 2007, spoke to my online journalism class last Thursday. She gave great tutorials on capturing/editing audio, photography/digital SLR basics and editing photos in Photoshop.
I sat down with Allison, a former Miami Hurricane photo editor, to ask her about the importance of multimedia and what advice she would give student journalists.
Here’s what she had to say:
Let the Web design blogging begin!
Will is overseeing the aesthetic side of the project and will be posting updates and information about the redesign process. The blog will also act as a means for gathering feedback and discussing the new site.
And what is the name of this forum?
Why such a simple name?
“The reason is, it is what it is. I don’t want anything creative.”
What about the design and color scheme?
“The serious bloggers are going to be using a reader anyway.”
Unrelated, my favorite quote from Will came as he was updating his resume last semester. As he was finishing, he realized something:
“I forget to put that I was Time Magazine’s person of the year in 2006 on my resume.”
Miami Herald metro reporter Evan Benn will begin speaking with a UM journalism class (CNJ 216 news reporting) in about a minute or so. I’m crashing the party with my laptop, digital recorder and point-and shoot.
He will be discussing online research and has a handout called “Finding people, getting stories.”
Here are the points he will discuss:
1. Plug ‘Em In
2. Find public records
3. Call around them
4. Play dumb
5. Be yourself
I’ll be expanding these based on his talk as it occurs, so please be sure to check back for updates.
9: 42 A.M.: “Even when I first got into this business all we did is go out with a notebook and pen, but now it’s so much different.” Now, he has a Blackberry (for filing and photos), takes a digital recorder, etc.
He shot photos from courtroom with Blackberry, but they said they sucked, so he brought a point-and-shoot the next time.
Side note: I brought Evan to speak to our SPJ chapter last semester where he mentioned how he liveblogged the O.J. trial from Vegas.
“You really have to be fast and efficient and versatile, that’s always the linchpin of journalism.” (Hey! That’s the name of this blog.)
Tip 1: “There’s so much information available on the Internet,” that should be where you start. Use Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, etc.
Tip 2: Public records: “There’s a wealth of information you can find about people’s lives.”
- Miami-Dade County
- Miami-Dade clerk of courts
- Power Reporting
- Florida Department of Law Enforcement
- Network Solutions – Who Is
10:02 A.M.: We’ve moved on to blogging, yay!
“I think that’s important in this day and age.”
Evan gave an example of a recent post he wrote about an item from his hometown papers.
Tip 4: Play dumb.
“Don’t be afraid to say, ‘Can you slow down?’ “
“When you’re writing, pretend like your telling it to your friend.”
For difficult stories, such as deaths and tragedies.
“Be a human first, a journalist second. Often journalists are seen as vultures.”
“Be empathetic. It’s O.K. to not be a robot. Make a human connection, find some common ground. If you can find that human connection, you’ll find people are a lot more willing to talk to you and make you job easier.”
Question from student: Are blogs replacing columns?
No, Evan says he thinks they add to the conversation.
Question from student: Do you do your own radio work?
He takes all his own audio, uploads it, listens and edits before taking it to radio studio. He writes a minute-long script, voices it and they put it all together.