The 5 goals of teaching journalism tools (outside the classroom)

The future of journalism education has stirred some additional and passionate stories this week. Jeff Jarvis, paying honor to Eric Newton’s speech about journalism education’s “symphony of slowness” and my own article on Poynter Online which opined that “journalism education can’t teach its way to the future,” has weighed in on BuzzMachine.

Jarvis puts curriculum into three boxes: study, practice and tools. He argues that schools should change how they teach and what they teach.

Jarvis argues that classroom time is not the best time to teach tools. Those who do teach tools — outside the classroom — should have a more practical focus:

“Schools try to express their goals in terms of outcomes for students. I chart tools against a set of outcomes rising from:
* Familiarity — Knowing what a tool can do so you can be inspired to use it when appropriate to meet a journalistic or community goal.
* Speccing — The ability to write a specification that will enable a coder to deliver what you need.
* Adaptation — The ability to take work that a developer has done and adapt it for a particular need (for example, modifying a WordPress template or a Google map).
* Making — The ability to make something from scratch using a tool — for example, a video using FinalCut or a slideshow using various tools.
* Expertise — Certification as an expert able even to teach the tool.”

Jarvis believes, as I do, that schools need to reach beyond students.

What I’m also trying to do is imagine scaling journalism education so that much, or most, of it could be taught to some — no, to many more — people online, including not just undergrad and graduate students but also professionals who obviously need to learn new skills as their industry convulses around them.

Jeremy Harris Lipschultz, writing at the Huffington Post, defends educators, who he says are responding reasonably to the changing media landscape:

Finberg represents part of the two conversations I mentioned in my last posting here on wayfinding.

His context is the disruption during the past 20 years to the media industry and its looming impact on media education. Finberg, however, is less focused on the perspective of the disrupters, whom embrace change and stand to benefit from it. I think online education represents more the technology of the shift than the fundamental differences.

Lipschultz, director of the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s School of Communication, acknowledges that media education, which I read as journalism, is important:

“Media educators and their students need to embrace change, elevate enthusiasm and seize opportunities. Good jobs and a good life await those who learn how to write and communicate, become master storytellers and use state-of-the-art tools. Communication educators will remain relevant and vital by teaching the fundamentals.”

Read more
1 Comment

How journalism students benefit from class blogs about values, practices

As incidences of checkbook journalism, plagiarism and fabrication spring up, I’m repeatedly struck by the importance of what I teach. It seems we’ve never needed ethical and excellent journalism more than we do now.

I try to promote the ethical practice of journalism every single day in my teaching and use technological tools to extend the conversation beyond the classroom. I’ve found that blogs are one way to keep students informed about important values and practices, and they enable me to use current examples to bring lessons to life.

In my intro multimedia course, I use a blog to bring in ethics issues and controversies we often don’t have time to cover in class. I populate the blog with items I think will engage the students — sometimes serious, sometimes humorous. I often introduce items online that we later discuss in lecture and in lab. The students regularly refer to the blog because it’s part of required weekly readings — and thus fair game for the all-powerful weekly quiz.

WordPress is the tool I use for all my blogging needs, though many people enjoy Blogger’s easy interface and the seamlessness of using one Google login for everything. Both services are free, and although they do feed in ads at times, I haven’t found them overwhelming, intrusive or at odds with my content.

Blog commenting has opened a door for students who feel less comfortable speaking up in class. Independence is a key ethic in journalism, and I want students to know that they can and should challenge the things I present to them. I like it when they use comments on the blog to fact-check my fact-checking.

While some students regularly comment on the blog, I’ve found that comment activity in general has dropped off markedly throughout the last two years. (This may be tied to an overall downward trend in blogging activity among this age group.)

I experimented with giving students access to add their own posts, but we quickly learned that doing so led to an excessive amount of material, at times unrelated to class. Now I ask them to email me with posts they’d like me to add.

We benefit from the immediacy and interactivity a blog offers. I can point students to their own successes (such as when they sniffed out problems with the James O’Keefe NPR “sting” well before national news outlets) and together we can highlight ethics failures (such as Bill O’Reilly’s infamous palm-trees-in-snowy-Wisconsin footage).

In my life outside class, I’m a blogging letdown. I’ve never been able to keep up the pace and thematic focus that makes a great personal blog.

But as a teacher, I feel motivated to keep class blogs going because I see how effective they are — not just at getting timely information in front of students, but at helping them keep important values top of mind throughout the year.

How do you use blogs in your own classes, or engage students in ethics exercises? Read more


Get the latest media news delivered to your inbox.

Select the newsletter(s) you'd like to receive: