Archive for May, 2010
Mark Lee Hunter, an investigative journalist, researcher and adjunct professor at the INSEAD Social Innovation Centre in Paris, is giving a keynote presentation this week to the European Journalism Training Association in Paris.
The following are excerpts from an interview with Mark Lee Hunter about journalism education posted on the European Journalism Centre web site:
Kathlyn Clore, EJC: In the recent INSEAD working paper you co-authored on Disruptive News Technologies: Stakeholder Media ad the Future of Watchdog Journalism Business Models, you write, “with the exception of Norway, every European Union country is graduating approximately twice as many reporters from journalism schools as can be hired by the industry.”
What shifts do journalism educators need to make in order to better equip students to work for stakeholder media (rather than news media) which are indeed on the rise and likely employers for journalism school graduates?
Hunter: It means we have to think hard about ethics and methods. It also means we have to train them in entrepreneurialism and partnership skills. We also need to train them to understand how to collect, organise and mine data. It is not just about reporting and writing anymore. It’s about creating a future. The fundamental issue is that the news industry as presently composed will not provide a future for enough of our students.
EJC: In your working paper, you write about a shift in priorities, from “project focus to business development.” How can journalism educators help facilitate this shift?
Hunter: More strategic analysis: where are we going with this material? What are its future uses? How do we capture them?
EJC: You write in the working paper, “we have assumed that great content will solve our problems. It has not done so and it will not do so, because the historic and primary market for that content, the news industry, is in decline.”
Where does this leave journalism students or younger reporters who are enthusiastic about their work? Is the old maxim “content is king” no longer true?
EJC: No. I meant that content alone will not solve the problem if we think of content only as making one great story. We have to think beyond “this” story. We have to think about where we are going to be and what we will talk about in 10 years.
I read two pieces today — a cover story from Columbia Journalism Review and a 2009 academic paper from AEJMC — and am convinced [once again] how deeply we have to change the way we teach journalism. The journalism idealized in the halls of most journalism schools and the messy, chaotic and unpredictable ecology of journalism ‘out there’ is creating an intellectual disconnect so sharp it hurts.
We say we want students with curiosity, passion and commitment. But we often fail to select or nurture those qualities. We tolerate courses that focus on punctuation, style and formulaic writing and require a curriculum that stipulates a smattering of survey courses across the university. We bring in guest lecturers who can’t wait to leave the profession and wonder why our students aren’t picking up the paper copy of The New York Times when they enter the building texting on cell phones.
Today’s cover story in the Columbia Journalism Review describes one reality our students face when they so cheerfully graduate (or don’t graduate, as in the case of this writer). After describing the typically disjointed career path of a ‘today’s urban writer’ and a series of (sometimes) appalling experiences from WSJ to Gawker, the author makes this point: we have to ‘humanize journalism.’ I agree, as I do with the argument about objectivity, both of which have echoes across the landscape. But Tkacik’s fundamental assessment that journalism is floundering because it became part of an empty and unsustainable enterprise is to me a far more insightful analysis of the problem than the endless search for new business models that assume what we do and how we support it have nothing to do with each other.
Look at me!
A writer’s search for journalism in the age of branding by Maureen Tkacik
…Maybe the best policy for our beaten-down population of journalists just naturally involves letting down the old guard of objectivity and letting go of illusions of unimpeachability. Rather than train journalists to dismiss their own experiences, what if we trained them to use those experiences to help them explain the news to their audience? Allow their humanity to shape their journalism? This isn’t some radically profound notion—it only seems that way in the context of the ridiculous zero-sum debate over the relative merits of “straight” news versus the self-absorbed nature of blogs. Maybe there is a way to combine the best of both.
If journalism’s more vital traditions of investigating corruption and synthesizing complex topics are going to be restored, it will never be at the expense of the personal, the sexual, the venal, or the sensational, but rather through mastering the kind of storytelling that understands that none of those things exists in a vacuum. For instance, perhaps the latest political sex scandal is not simply another installment of the unrelenting narcissism and sense of invincibility of people in power. Most of the journalists writing about it have—as we all do—some understanding of the internal conflicts that lead to personal failure. By humanizing journalism, we maybe can begin to develop a mutual trust between reader and writer that would benefit both.