Networked Journalism Education

Reconceptualizing the j-student

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As many have mentioned (see Cody Brown’s essay on direct news organizations for one) the term “citizen journalism” is a bridge term, something to get us from where we are now to what we will be. At some point it will be as odd to refer to “citizen journalists” as it would be to call a radio the “wireless telegraph” or television a “radio with pictures.”

If we assume that even some small part of the news gathering structure that’s been lost from traditional newsrooms  will be replaced by people who have other full-time jobs besides journalism, it is clear that a LOT of people will be participating in some way in acts of journalism.

Plenty of people are doing this work perfectly well without any journalism education or training whatsoever. But based on my observations and that of others, many more people are:

  1. Intimidated by the tools or the writing or the act of identifying an issue for attention
  2. Unaware as to why investigating, observing, reporting and sharing issues of public concern might be an act of citizenship
  3. Alienated or separated from any form of public deliberation about issues that affect them

We also know that the people most likely to contribute to the journalistic conversation are similar to each other: better educated, wealthier and more wired. If we want to broaden and deepen the journalism contributed by a larger group of us, we must think about how to make journalism a more accessible act, valued by others and guided by community norms for public discourse: respect, honesty, and fairness.

What would this mean in a university context?

  1. That we open up, or offer specific courses for, the entire university population, not just students who want to be full-time professional journalists.
  2. We think of ourselves as part of the Cooperative Extension program of land grant colleges, offering practical advice and training to the ‘gardeners and farmers’ of journalism in our communities
  3. We offer workshops and more flexible programs in addition to set courses and semester long schedules.

We may still see our purpose as graduating students certified for full-time professional employment in institutional journalism organizations, but in addition, we have an obligation to nurture and shape the journalistic capabilities of all university graduates if we want to insure a more vibrant, capable and energetic future for public life.

Written by Donica

November 1st, 2009 at 4:31 pm

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