Networked Journalism Education

Archive for July, 2010

Teaching community engagement

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J-schools are all about teaching students to write accurate stories. Some programs have moved the focus of teaching from AP style and proper grammar to audio and video skills, but a fundamental problem of journalism — of journalists talking at the public on subjects predetermined by journalistic tradition — remains largely unaddressed.

If we conceive of journalism as something beyond information-transmission — as, in addition, community conversation, civic action, a problem-solving mechanism, we would spend much more time in j-schools studying the dynamics of community culture, decision making and civic capacity. We would work to understand when well-produced empathetic stories are most needed, and when databases, forums, meetings, tweets, posts, games, distributive reporting and watchdog investigations make the most sense for addressing particular community problems.

Judy Sims, a Canadian digital media consultant, writes about two factors she believes are leading to the death of news organizations:

Cause of Death #1: Failure to recognize the necessity of Community

She explains:

If a newspaper’s job is to reflect, affect and connect the community it serves, trust and relevance are what get the job done. It’s amazing to me how at this time, with more tools available than ever to fulfill these objectives, newspapers are turning away from what made them great brands in the first place. By refusing to listen to and engage their readers by ignoring social media, limiting comments and erecting pay walls, they are destroying trust and hastening their irrelevance.

They are destroying the core, not protecting it.

It’s time to embrace the community.

Every section, every beat and every neighbourhood should have a community manager. That’s a real human being, not an RSS Twitter feed with headlines.

Shouldn’t j-schools lead the way in developing community engagement practices? How might we do this better? Initial ideas…

  1. Identify news organizations (TBD.com perhaps, as it grows; the Guardian, Civil Beat, etc.) who are doing this well and study what community practices work the best and which don’t work as well. Then implement what we find in classrooms, and put ideas out for the journalism community to comment, tweak and build on.
  2. Connect journalism courses that are addressing these questions and build a network of curriculum experience so we can learn from each other’s mistakes and successes.
  3. Engage journalism funding institutions that are doing this (such as the J-Lab) and more actively mine the experience from their funded projects.

Written by Donica

July 16th, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Two-legged crisis

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According to Jay Blumler, journalism is facing two crises:

“…the journalism which services this polity is currently facing a crisis with two legs. One is a crisis of viability, principally though not exclusively financial, threatening the existence and resources of mainstream journalistic organisations. The other is a crisis of civic adequacy, impoverishing the contributions of journalism to citizenship and democracy.”(Blumler, Jay G. (2010) ‘FOREWORD’, Journalism Studies, 11:4, 439 – 441)

Plenty of journalism programs seem to be addressing the problem of viability — from Jeff Jarvis’s entrepreneurial program at CUNY to Dan Gillmor at ASU and a variety of others.

Who is working on a new approach to the civic leg of the problem? What innovations are we developing in the civic work of journalists and journalistic organizations? How might we tackle this problem in a systematic and trackable way in our curriculum and research? Some of the entrepreneurial work is as much about this problem as it is about financial models, but both deserve focused attention.

Written by Donica

July 11th, 2010 at 11:49 pm