Networked Journalism Education

Archive for November, 2013

Transforming the college media experience

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Prototyping room at the d.school, Stanford University

This month’s Carnival of Journalism delivers a rich conversation about the future of college media, full of excellent advice about what college media could be and should be: a local community news source, entrepreneurial, innovative, radically experimental, process rather than product oriented, and ready to drop the “student” label.

So, how do we get from here to there? And what is the role of journalism educators in this transition?

I can speak only to the situation on the Nevada campus; mileage varies in terms of how this might apply more universally. But on our campus the journalism school has no official relationship with any of the college media outlets. We don’t offer course credit, internship credit, formal mentoring or resources. Occasionally editors will ask for advice informally or form an advisory board that lasts only as long as one editor’s tenure.

The result is that when we have strong editors and engaged students, the newspaper, magazine and budding radio station provide an invaluable experience, preparing students for jobs at respected national media outlets and serving the campus community. But when we don’t have adept students with the passion and means to work long hours for little or no pay, the outlets don’t get close to fulfilling their potential.

Serious innovation isn’t going to happen just because we hope it will.  Short-term commitments, financial pressures and inexperience are barriers to innovation that we as educators need to address much more directly.

What are some levers educators could employ to help the process along?

Value the work: Consider offering course credit or internship credit for participating in campus media. This would enable students to commit more time to their efforts and cause educators to take the work more seriously.

Improve recognition of high quality, innovative work: When students produce exceptional work, take notice. When they do something radically experimental, recognize it. Encourage regular post-production quality review; build a school culture that recognizes and makes explicit standards of excellence in regards to journalistic quality and to innovation.

Help students build support networks that inspire innovation: Invite alumni, community leaders, faculty in other colleges, and student media leaders from other campuses to visit and talk about innovations in community and college media.

Build skills related to innovation: Conduct design thinking workshops or enable students to attend design workshops elsewhere; facilitate entrepreneurial learning through courses or others means; sponsor films, events and speakers focused on processes of innovation; teach prototyping and usability testing; partner with other units on campus and community businesses/organizations engaged in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Identify new roles within media organizations: Most college media are built around long-established newsroom roles: reporter/editor/photographer. Educators are in a good position to talk about emerging roles in news media: community managers, social media coordinators, visualization experts, data journalists, coders, interactive designers, multimedia storytellers and more traditional roles of increasing importance: investigative journalists and breaking news teams. Help students see the possibilities of specialized focus for themselves and their student news organizations. Facilitate partnerships, online training resources and courses to help students learn the skills necessary for the jobs they want to pursue.

Facilitate connections with the local community: If campus news media are to expand to the surrounding community as advocated by Aram Zucker-Scharff, help build connections with the local community by embedding community relationships in course work and inviting local community leaders to speak and engage with the school.

Increase interaction with faculty and students from strategic communications and marketing:  These folks specialize in engagement and attention; news students could learn a lot from some of their approaches. It’s not enough to simply push content. Understanding audiences and what people pay attention to and why will improve the findability, shareability and relevance of  journalism.

Involve advertising students: The advertising model for online journalism needs as much (or more) innovation as the news side. Encourage advertising faculty to engage with these questions in their classes and use college news organizations as examples and clients.

Provide seed funding: Encourage small teams of students to build collaborations and college news experiments by sponsoring challenge grants, seed grants and securing local funding and in-kind donations.

Require students to create and maintain online portfolios of their work: Show students the value of creating a professional online identity and of producing work that is evidence of their talents, skills and experience. Stress the value of creating a college media experience that helps them produce this work.

College media has the potential to:

  • Provide excellent training for students for their future careers
  • Make valuable contributions to local communities through journalism
  • Build noteworthy examples of sustainable journalism for the future
  • (Addendum: Teach students habits of citizenship that will benefit them regardless of their future careers (as well as strengthen our democracies)

How else might we facilitate this potential?

Written by Donica

November 10th, 2013 at 1:35 am