Networked Journalism Education

Archive for August, 2010

AEJMC conference from afar

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Since I couldn’t attend AEJMC this year, I’ve been working to glean what I can online. Here are the best posts so far:

Eric Newton, vice president for Journalism at the Knight Foundation, identified Journalism Education’s Four Transformational Trends:

  • Transformational Trend Number One: Journalism and communication schools better connecting to the intellectual life of the entire university.
  • Transformational Trend Number Two: Journalism and communication schools as content and technology innovators.
  • Transformational Trend Number Three: Journalism and communication schools as the master teachers of open, collaborative approaches.
  • Transformational Trend Number Four: Journalism and communication schools as digital news providers who understand the media ecosystems of their communities.

He also challenged journalism educators to study their own work more carefully to better understand what is actually changing in the way we do our work — and how effective we are.

Alfred Hermida is keeping his blog up to date on the sessions he’s attending. As always, he has excellent posts, sprinkled with his own comments (and research). For example, in a session by Rich Beckman on rebooting journalism education, he notes:

Teaching journalism today is much more than teaching students how to use a piece of software or coding.

Rather, I would argue it is a mindset. It is understanding how digital is changing journalism norms and practices and how to teach students to tell compelling stories in creative and critical ways.

AEJMC is also keeping track of conversations on its blog (AEJMC News) and AEJMC Tumblr. A good list of talks and resources for incorporating social media in the classroom is linked on the AEJMC blogspot site.

I’ve enjoyed reading the Twitter posts on #AEJMC10 although the duplications are driving me to find a better system for filtering. I just noticed that the social media discussion has moved to a subtag: #aejmc10sm. It helps! (And so does the analysis capturing the tweets and the stats. Thanks @ree_tweets!)

Steve Fox is following the conference on his blog UMass Journalism Professor’s Blog. Yesterday Fox posted an interesting message from a former student, about his evolution from working on the student paper to covering the campus for a local newspaper to developing his own online coverage.

The picture I get from watching AEJMC online this year is far more robust than last year — an encouraging sign. But I also know this picture is from one side of the house. Based on comments on the Newspaper Division listserv on whether the division should change its name, it’s clear that deep, nearly impassable divides exist about the nature and direction of change in our discipline/industries. A tweet from Jay Rosen yesterday about a poll question stuck in 2005 reinforced that perspective. We mirror this dynamic from our industry and society overall…but the weight is definitely shifting.

Written by Donica

August 4th, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Thinking strategically about information in the newsroom/classroom

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Journalists write stories about the information they have access to. The strategic thinking that should be the next step — who needs this information, how might they act on it, how will they find it, how will they share it, how is it useful to them? — is curiously lacking in most newsrooms. This piece of the information circuit isn’t built into the journalistic process. Journalists find information, package it, distribute it. End of story. I’m not talking about “news you can use” in a consumer sense. It’s about thinking through much more intelligently the value of the information we spend time collecting and distributing. It’s the ‘value-added’ aspect of information manufacture that is lacking in most local newsrooms.

Gerry McGovern has an insightful column about the nature of information on most Web sites. His point applies equally to journalism-as-information:

Many organizations have a strange attitude towards information. Its creation is nearly always disassociated from its use. Information is rarely seen as useful or purposeful. It’s just there because people need it. It doesn’t help you do things. It’s simply there for you to read just in case you need some information.

The fact that you need to read some information has no connection with the fact that you need to do something. Information gets created for information-purposes only. No liability. No accountability. And the job of the people who created the information is finished once they have created it. They are not even responsible for its findability. Saying it’s up on the Web is enough.

Most journalists equate “doing something” with advocacy. It’s not objective. It’s too much like public relations. It smells bad.

Yet, disconnected information packaged in random bits no longer serves the function it once did, when information was scarce. Now it just adds to the noise. Jay Rosen spoke to this in a chat on Poynter. He said:

The most important thing for establishing credibility is to learn how to be useful and truthful — intellectually honest — for a “live” group of people, a user community. Anything that teaches you how to be useful and truthful for a community of active users is helping you become a better journalist.

ADDENDUM: Vin Crosbie, Digital Deliverance, professor, thinker, writes about the greatest change in the media of the past 35 years in The Greatest Change in Media Made Newspapers Obsolete:

The greatest change has been that people’s access to media has changed from scarcity to surfeit. It’s an even bigger change than Gutenberg’s invention of a practical printing press, the invention of writing, or even the first Neolithic cave paintings. It’s the greatest change in all of media history. And it occurred in only 35 years — half a human lifespan.

If the unprecedented change in the balance of Supply & Demand for information — from scarce supply to surfeit supply or even information overload — is the root cause of the problems that media industries now face, how does the root cause contain materials from which comprehensive solutions can be constructed?

The solutions lay in understanding how this change affects pricing, packaging, the power balance between content providers and consumers, and even subjects such as what is local or what is community.

Part of the implications of this change, as many others have pointed out, is that helping people navigate through a flood of information is vastly different than dumping scarce bottles of information in the town square during a drought. In a drought, any water will do. People will find you and they will pay a premium. In a flood, only clean, well bottled water delivered to where you are matters.

We are just now figuring out that we have to make the information/journalism we deliver intensely useful, meaningful, shareable in ways that we’ve never had to think about. If we figure out how to deliver clean, safe water, well organized, right when and where people most need it, a business model will emerge. As journalism educators, we have to attend to our product, services, and value in this vastly different context. Then we will survive.

(Re-posted from a class blog that has since been taken down, written June 2009)

Written by Donica

August 3rd, 2010 at 1:53 pm