Networked Journalism Education

Community engagement in j-schools

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Does “community engagement” belong in the j-school curriculum?

Robert Niles, writing in the Online Journalism Review, Doing journalism in 2010 is an act of community organizing, says absolutely, yes:

The journalists who succeed online are the ones who understand that they are no longer simply reporters… they’ve become community organizers.

Consider these examples:

Jonathan Weber, the new editor-in-chief of the Bay Area News Project, spent the past four years building New West, a multi-platform, multi-revenue stream media network covering local news in the west. In an interview with Baynewser, he talks about what he’s looking for in some of his new staff (he’ll be hiring 15 editorial staff to start with):

a part of the staff will be devoted to the community development relationship-building, collaboration-building with both other media organizations and with bloggers and lots of other kinds of contributors [like] UC Berkeley, not only the [journalism] students but also the faculty, perhaps other departments at Berkeley. So some of the full-time staff will be devoted to developing and nurturing those kinds of relationships, and that is a somewhat different skill set than a traditional journalism skill set.

Because Weber has solid and successful experience doing this kind of work for New West, he knows what he’s talking about. It’s not a theoretical conception of journalism, but a working knowledge of how journalism works online.

Another example is this job description from John Temple, the new editor of Peer News in Honolulu. He’s also looking for reporters and says: “The job will require more interaction with readers and the community than is typical at most local news operations.” (I’m moving to Honolulu…)

Interacting with readers takes a different approach to journalism than we teach in most j-school courses, where students are taught to develop news sense, story ideas, sources and writing style independently from contact with people in the community. Calling expert sources for a quote doesn’t count. Listening to what people need and want to know about and building journalism around that premise, rather than building our journalism sense in isolation, would get us much closer to the kind of journalism that I think will be successful online.

Written by Donica

January 29th, 2010 at 11:36 am

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