Networked Journalism Education

Archive for the ‘Social media’ Category

What is award winning journalism?

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What type of online journalism is worthy of an award? How should judges for the Online News Association assess the “best” of online journalism? These are the questions a group of blogging carnivalists are pondering this month.

Lisa William’s articulate epiphany about her experience in judging awards for ONA last year: “I realized as I was doing it that what “good” meant was changing” is also a way of saying “I realized that journalism itself and our expectations of it are changing...”

The diversity of opinion in responding to Lisa’s question illustrates as clearly as anything I’ve seen the explosion of what we now consider “journalism.” Deep investigative reporting, carefully crafted prose, expert editing and beautiful professional images now compete with crowdsourced breaking news, iPhone video, Twitter conversations, community partnerships and interactive databases for recognition as quality journalism.

We can’t separate tools and journalism in any meaningful way. It’s the product of the two that produces meaningful ideas and communicates in ways that matter to people in the here and now.

Recognizing “Big-J” journalism online was an important first step within ONA. But now we have many versions of journalism that are meeting needs in individual communities in ways that are imaginative, unconventional and engaging. (And we still have a lot of tone-deaf journalism, churned out through rote formulaic processes that fail to move the needle in any direction at all.)

Does the Online News Association represent all of journalism today? Is offline journalism such a specialized niche that it should have its own journalism awards and everything else be presumed to be online?

My students can’t afford multiple professional memberships. When they ask about SPJ, RTNDA, SND etc., I often recommend ONA. It’s the organization that embraces the future of journalism. It’s no longer an enclave of frustrated print journalists who have moved online. It is all of us doing the work of many journalisms.

Some of the responses about how to judge ONA nominations are as much about the categories of awards as the qualities by which they should be judged. Do the categories of small, medium and large sites still matter? Perhaps the categories should be new, growing and long term organizations. Or perhaps those types of categories should disappear entirely.

Perhaps innovative business models should be an entire section of the awards ceremony. Perhaps educators should get together and craft ONA awards for most effective partnerships. Social media managers could brainstorm ways to assess qualities of engagement and use those to recognize success.

Many people probably think ONA already has too many categories. Perhaps categories of technology (online video/multimedia) are too narrow, or better served by more informal subgroups with ONA. Or maybe distinguishing between blogging, topical and professional categories could be re-thought.

ONA is doing a good job of incorporating the shiny new tools of journalism to the structure and organization of ONA, but it could focus even more specifically on redesigning the awards ceremony to reflect the diversity of what journalism is becoming.

Understanding these changes are part of ONA’s promise and mandate. This isn’t just another niche journalism organization handing out awards in the same format as every other professional organization. It’s a place to reflect on how one of the most significant transformations in human communication affect the craft, art and profession we love.

Awards signal a form of consensus about what constitutes quality achievement. It’s not surprising that at a time of rapid change this consensus falls apart. The fun of today’s conversation is how to focus the uncertainty in ways that help us see the bigger questions.

Written by Donica

July 16th, 2011 at 3:33 am

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

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 ( 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

Why we have to change our approach

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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.

Written by Donica

May 18th, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Student grading by peer networks

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Craig Newmark wrote a post today on trust and reputation systems: redistributing power and influence

His key takeaway:

By the end of this decade, power and influence will shift largely to those people with the best reputations and trust networks, from people with money and nominal power. That is, peer networks will confer legitimacy on people emerging from the grassroots.

(I wasn’t able to get online to watch his presentation to Missouri students…will soon, hopefully.)

I’m thinking about how this might apply to education. Who has nominal power in a university setting? Administrators and faculty. Who is emerging from the grassroots? Students.

Can I imagine a scenario where a student’s grade was partially determined by a peer network? Maybe. We already have systems in place for faculty evaluations by peer networks. Could these be improved? No question. Can I imagine some nightmare scenarios from such networks? Yes, as bad as some of the nightmares we have from our current system of grades, evaluations and promotions.

Reading Newmark’s arguments, is it at least conceivable that some form of reputation management and trust currency could be applied in an academic setting in a fair and just way. These developments could help address some of the serious deficiencies in academic institutions that represent countless lost opportunities in today’s system.

For example, one serious failing in our current system is the reduction of evaluation to quantifiable measurements. In some cases, quantifiable assessment is sufficient – student answers to easily measured problems are right or wrong. Faculty publish or they don’t publish. Administrators bring in money or they don’t.

But we have few reasonable methods for assessing other types of behavior: does a journalism student exhibit the judgment and doggedness that will someday make a great reporter? Does a colleague contribute in meaningful ways to an online scholarly network? Does a student’s behavior in a class help others learn as well? Does a faculty member or student collaborate in ways that improves the productivity of a group? Do they contribute insights with others? Does their work stand out for its quality and clarity?

Quantifiable measurements can be gamed, and most professors I know have reluctantly given a high grade to a student who knew how to earn points without actually learning or giving much to a class. Faculty incentives can be dead on arrival when most the burning concern is whether this ‘counts’ at annual evaluation time. Administrators who resist change and hoard power reduce the ability of a university to prosper.

Maybe our incentives and measurements are contributing to the lack of energy I see in many college classrooms. Perhaps better systems for recognizing and rewarding talent, persistence, collaboration and success could help revitalize the academy. We should certainly try.

Here’s an idea for next semester: What if students produced a one-minute broadcast at the beginning of each class summarizing for a general audience what they learned in the previous class? Their peers – both in the class and outside — could evaluate the quality of the broadcast in some fashion that we designed together. The evaluation would be considered a part of the student’s grade, a peer input that would be transparent and make a difference. It would be a way to experiment with a reputation and evaluation system that was real and had consequences.

Any merit in this idea? Other ways to experiment with reputation, trust and authority in a college classroom?

Written by Donica

April 6th, 2010 at 1:51 pm

More AP experimentation on Facebook

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Yet another experiment in opening up on the news judgment process, this time from AP. The news wire has been asking newspaper editors and broadcast producers for their selection of the “top 10 stories” of the year since 1936. This year they are keeping the poll for traditional gatekeepers, but adding a parallel poll for Facebook users. They plan to publish both versions. It will be interesting to see how the lists compare and what effect comparisons like this might have on future news judgment. (Source: European Journalism Centre)

You can cast a Facebook vote here:

Written by Donica

December 9th, 2009 at 4:02 am

Posted in Social media