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How Don Zimmer’s baseball card inspired my book on short writing

I was at a baseball game in St. Petersburg, Florida, Wednesday night when news filtered through the stands that baseball legend Don Zimmer had died. His death was not broadcast by the stadium announcer or flashed on the giant video screen.

Almost everyone at Tropicana Field seemed to have a cell phone, and, as the news spread on social networks, it also spread by word of mouth. A friend even showed me a photo on his phone of Tampa Bay Rays coach Tom Foley – who wears Zimmer’s number 66 as a tribute – crying at the news in the dugout.

Don Zimmer was a baseball legend fueled, not by his talent (he was a .235 career hitter), but by his longevity and the rich variety of his experiences:

  • He knew Babe Ruth.
  • He played with and befriended Jackie Robinson.
  • A pitch fractured his skull, rendering him unconscious for two weeks, ushering in the era of the batting helmet.
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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

ergey Brin wears Google Glass glasses at an announcement for the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences at Genentech Hall on UCSF’s Mission Bay campus in San Francisco, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013.

Live chat replay: Glass journalism and teaching when we don’t have all the answers

Robert Hernandez, one of Web journalism’s earliest, most influential innovators, joined us for a live chat Wednesday on Google Glass and a class he will be leading in the fall on “Glass journalism.”

Robert Hernandez

Hernandez teaches at the USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism as assistant professor of professional practice. He took questions on Google Glass as an emerging tool for newsgathering and storytelling. He also discussed how educators can grapple with a subject that generates more questions than answers — one of the challenges in teaching new technologies and evolving concepts.

This chat was a lead-up to Teachapalooza, Poynter’s college educator seminar scheduled for June 20-22 at our St. Petersburg institute. Hernandez will be among the teaching faculty. The deadline to register is Friday, May 16.

You can replay this chat at any time and visit www.poynter.org/chats to find an archive of all past chats.

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Monday, May 12, 2014

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The Pyramid of Journalism Competence: what journalists need to know

What does a journalist need to know?

What defines “competence” in journalism?

When you graduate from a journalism school, what should you know how to do?

In the digital age, the answers to those questions are more important than ever. For more than three decades now, they have been near the center of conversation and debate at Poynter. Before we could figure out what to teach, we needed to understand – in the public interest – what journalists needed to learn.

This process was energized in 1997 by a call to action from Tom Rosenstiel, one of the leaders of a group called the Committee of Concerned Journalists. Over the next two years, the committee conducted “21 public forums attended by 3,000 people and involving testimony from more than 300 journalists,” according to the book “The Elements of Journalism” by Rosenstiel and Bill Kovach.

Poynter was asked to conduct one of those forums on a most challenging topic: What does it mean to be a competent journalist? Read more

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Wednesday, Apr. 09, 2014

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Journalism needs the right skills to survive

Despite the economic imperatives facing the media industry, professional journalists lag behind educators and others in rating the importance of multimedia and other digital storytelling skills.

That finding is the result of new research from The Poynter Institute, which shows a wide divergence between professionals and educators in their thinking on the importance of core journalism skills, especially those skills that are essential for mastering new methods of gathering and delivering news and information. It is unclear whether educators are putting too much emphasis on these skills or whether professionals have a different perspective given their day-to-day work.

The Core Skills for the Future of Journalism report, released today, raises the puzzling question as to why the professionals who responded to the survey don’t rate the importance of multimedia skills in today’s visual, multiplatform media landscape as highly as educators, students and independent journalists.

Educators who responded also value knowledge about the business of media and the larger media landscape much higher than journalists working in media organizations. Read more

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Wednesday, Mar. 05, 2014

Christopher Callahan, dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications, at the downtown campus of Arizona State University Friday, Nov. 14, 2008 in Phoenix.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

How journalism schools can innovate by teaching tech reporting

Almost every journalism school either has or intends to revisit what they teach. Even before Knight Foundation’s Eric Newton led the call for a reformation of journalism schools, the momentum was clear: there was going to be educational disruption, and every school needed to position itself as the J-school of the future.

In recent years, much of what has happened falls into two categories: bringing “entrepreneurship into the curriculum” or using the “teaching hospital” metaphor. Both have merits. And the recent Knight education challenge fund administered through ONA is a great way to continue to push boundaries. And in that vein, I want to offer a third option, one that I haven’t seen widely adopted but that I think could bear fruit.

Your J-school should have a technology reporting class.

My personal story: I started out as a technology reporter. It was after the first dot-com bust and before the full rise of Web 2.0. Read more

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Wednesday, Dec. 04, 2013

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What students need to know about code and data viz

A stunning amount of data is available to journalists these days, and it is growing exponentially. Not surprisingly, the need for data journalists is expanding as well.

Data-driven journalism is a diverse field that involves interpreting data, developing programming code, and creating databases, maps, charts and other visualizations. Some of the skills required take considerable study. But we often overlook the complexity of data journalism and leave our young journalists without the knowledge they need to succeed.

What should students know about code and data visualizations? What skills should be taught to best prepare them for jobs in data-driven journalism?

Northwestern University Medill School professor Jeremy Gilbert, University of Southern California Annenberg School professor Robert Hernandez, ringleader of For Journalism Dave Stanton and I got together to discuss the tremendous possibilities at the intersection of data, technology and news. Our live chat focused on what educators need to teach and students should learn to succeed in computational journalism. Read more

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Monday, Nov. 04, 2013

The Daily Bruin's reporting on the struggle of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Malawi to gain health care was supported by the Bridget O'Brien Scholarship Foundation. (DaiyBruin.com)

UCLA reporting honors photojournalist’s memory

In their last year of college, a reporter and photographer spent 24 days in Malawi conducting interviews and taking photographs to create an ambitious newspaper report about a sensitive human-rights story. But to pay for the trip, they didn’t have to hit the lottery or save money by sleeping in their cars.

Presented by the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student paper, “In the Shadows” is a story of vulnerability, isolation and prejudice. Homosexuality is illegal and stigmatized in Malawi, so all the people who 2013 UCLA graduates Sonali Kohli interviewed and Blaine Ohigashi photographed had to remain anonymous. The three-chapter story details the challenges Malawi’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community faces in getting health care, including HIV prevention and treatment, and obtaining mental-health and addiction services.

Kohli and Ohigashi owe their opportunity to pursue such an ambitious story to the Bridget O’Brien Scholarship Foundation. O’Brien, who died in 2007, was a former staffer at the Bruin, where she worked primarily as a photojournalist. Read more

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Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013

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Journalism textbooks have seen their future and it is digital

An animated, thickly illustrated website freckled with hyperlinks doesn’t say “textbook” the way a musty hardcover does. But Eric Newton wants you to see “Searchlights and Sunglasses: Field Notes from the Digital Age of Journalism” as a model for what the textbooks of the future could be.

“There isn’t a name for what it is,” Newton, journalist and senior adviser to the Knight Foundation president, said in a phone interview. “It’s a digital book and a teaching tool – an HTML5 website designed in parallax so you have that 3D immersion. We call it a demonstration project.”

Eric Newton, journalist and senior adviser to the Knight Foundation president, leads a Poynter Institute/NewsU webinar, “Six Things Educators Can Do Right Now to Go Digital,” on Oct. 28.

The combination of Newton’s observations about the state of journalism and journalism education (much of which has been previously published on the Knight Foundation’s blog and in various other places) and assignments, links, and discussion questions that make up the “learning layer” will be available free of charge starting today. Read more

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Wednesday, Oct. 09, 2013

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Journalism program takes lessons from teaching hospitals

What’s happening in journalism education sounds eerily like what’s happened to the newspaper industry over the last decade-and-a-half: While the talk in academia is of adjuncts and buyouts instead of freelancers and layoffs, professors are hearing more and more that commentators predict serious trouble for the journalism degree.

Meanwhile, every year for the last seven years, a small paper in Anniston, Ala., has been able to afford to devote six to eight reporters to yearlong, multimedia enterprise stories. And the University of Alabama boasts a job-placement rate above 90 percent for its community-journalism students.

How have these young Alabama reporters bucked grim trends in journalism? By following a model of education patterned after teaching hospitals.

The Alabama model

This fall, seven students began their master’s coursework in Alabama’s community-journalism program. They’ll graduate in July after completing two semesters of coursework, a yearlong group enterprise story, a yearlong multimedia feature project, writing countless local news stories and completing a three-month, full-time newsroom internship. Read more

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Wednesday, Sep. 18, 2013

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How editing processes are evolving at college-media outlets

A guest lecturer told my students last month that one of things he was most excited about in his new job covering Ohio State athletics was working with editors again.

Thinking I’d misunderstood him, I asked if his stories were edited before being published online.

The answer was no.

This was a recent alumnus working for an online-only outlet that required dozens of stories per month, but I was still surprised. Surprised, but also reminded of an exchange with the sports editor during my first summer as adviser for The Lantern. He had been posting content — often well-done stories and commentaries — without anyone else on staff seeing it first.

As adviser, that made no sense to me for journalistic and legal reasons. The more editors involved the better, for everything from copy-editing to fact-checking. There’s also the fact that in this learning environment the only way to get better at editing is to edit. Read more

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