Networked Journalism Education

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

We need you to do better

without comments

Dear editors of news organizations:

Enough already.

Politics in Washington has become a national nightmare and you are making it worse.

The ticker on CNN for two days has been about who to blame for the shutdown. The New York Times leads with “bitter bickering.” “Partisan fighting” can be found in nearly every account of the government shutdown. The tax bill coverage was nonstop speculation about who was winning and who was losing — confined entirely to those working in Washington DC.

This type of coverage causes people to throw up — their hands, their heads and everything else. The sheer awfulness of the current rhetoric makes even those who love following politics turn off their televisions and close their laptops. News stories focusing on blame and on winning and losing exacerbates political outrage and apathy — the exact emotions we need less of. Your coverage impels most people to retreat from anything having to do with politics, leaving power to the few wealthy enough to use it to enrich their own personal interests.

We have politicians and political strategists who work actively for this outcome because it serves their candidates and causes. We have politicians who know they win if they can turn ordinary people against each other. If we want to remain a democratic country, then we must do everything possible to counter this active and pervasive undermining of democratic institutions and actions.

As has been noted hundreds of times this year in media critiques, avoid wall-to-wall coverage of the political gamesmanship of the second — the tweet, the intrigue, the backstabbing — and instead focus relentlessly on the actual tradeoffs, policies and consequences of what is being debated. Be so much more creative in showing the things that have consequence with color and drama and sweep.

When a Republican says that the Democrats are sacrificing the health of American children to save immigrants — let your coverage be so clear and to the point and consistent and deep that people know what part of that is true or what is not. Put the history of CHIP on a timeline. Identity the places where the funding could be expended. Summarize the changing policies that have been introduced in Congress about Dreamers. Follow along as policy is made. Educate people on the big picture as well as the minute. And please, write as if the policy matters. Write with an eye to what the parties stand for, and not just a blow-by-blow of petty bickering that makes the entire nation binge watch Netflix shows instead of following the news.

When ordinary people lose faith in the system, democracy fails. Please don’t hasten the process.

Written by Donica

January 21st, 2018 at 4:59 pm

Universities should be information hubs for their communities

without comments

News organizations and universities have grown up together. Both flourished in a progressive era that welcomed scientific progress and valued objective expertise. Both have had long, healthy runs dispensing knowledge and information to the public. And now, for related reasons, both are often seen as isolated, inflexible mammoth institutions deaf to public needs. A new generation thinks reading newspapers and sitting in classroom lecture halls is equally lacking in stimulation.

My vision is that journalism faculties — all faculties! — will start working to make their insights and observations and research applicable to the big and small problems gripping their communities. As with journalism, we (at least, some of us) need to shift our emphasis from production of highly structured, particular types of knowledge to participation in the creation of knowledge that binds people and places in tangibly constructive ways. And done in collaboration with students, the ‘service learning,’ applied research and community involvement may ignite more enthusiasm than we’re seeing in many college classrooms.

Both journalists and professors can be highly focused on defining what they do and doing it, regardless of whether anyone else needs or wants it. There is still a place and a demand for some of that, of course, but the great need, as I see it, is to radically rethink what our work is about and who it is for.

What might that look like? I see journalism faculty and students acting as facilitators, connecting communities of particular needs with appropriate faculty and students in the university. In the process, greater two-way information flow will foster more applied and more relevant research and teaching.

Here’s an example: our university is doing a great deal of interdisciplinary research on climate change. Scientists have their research questions. Funding agencies have their mandates. Everyone gives lip service to outreach. But little attention is spared for identifying what information people in the state actually need to know, when and in what form.  No politicians or policy makers are giving citizens advice about how to respond to climate change economically, socially, politically. Community organizing has never been a traditional role for professors or for journalists, but now that’s exactly what’s needed in our state, fractured by competing interests and limited resources.

We could start anywhere. Say we started with the problem of ranching and how it might be affected by climate change. Or growing plants. Or running ski resorts. Rather than asking students to ‘cover’ an issue for a semester, we teach them to find the community of people who care about addressing the problem and listen to them. A lot. Find out what they need. Figure out the critical information gaps that prevent progress. Listen and watch carefully to learn what people need to know. Follow Jonathan Stray’s suggestion and find out where the misperceptions lie. At the same time, find faculty on campus who have relevant expertise. Talk to them. Reframe the problem. Bring them together. Get students to participate. Facilitate relevant research and related service. Help participants to make media about what they are doing. Communicate the process as a participant and enabler, rather than a detached observer.

Lots of problems would need to be solved before a scenario like that could really work. But they are problems that can, theoretically, be solved through agreement and reordering of priorities. Our communities need us, desperately. Will we have the courage to reorient who we work for, in what ways and how?

Written by Donica

January 21st, 2011 at 1:03 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tom Curley’s advice to j-students

without comments

Writing is a great skill. It helps you in any number of fields. And you really do have to know two things: It helps to be at least bilingual, and it certainly helps to do multimedia and be comfortable with the new cameras which are emerging and the production of multimedia content. So those are some pieces of advice i would give to young people.

(Neiman’s lab transcript of AP’s President, Tom Curley, on the “oversupply” of news and what he’s doing about it)

If we produce bilingual students who are versatile at using the latest cameras, we will have failed in our role as catalysts for a new future.

Written by Donica

October 19th, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Presentation at Future of Journalism Conference

without comments

Here is the presentation I gave at the “Future of Journalism” conference in Cardiff, Wales in September, 2009 on “Rethinking Journalism Education [again].” The best of the papers from the conference will be published in future issues of Journalism and Journalism Practice.

Written by Donica

September 7th, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,