April 20, 2012

My students were recently on spring break, but that didn’t slow them in their march to improve my teaching through social media.

At one point, a student in my intro course tweeted:

tweet by @blakesamanas

He highlighted an ethics case I’d completely missed — NBC’s investigation of some clearly problematic editing of audio from the Trayvon Martin shooting.

At first I said, “Geez, how did I miss that?”

Then I thought, “Thank God for social media.”

Journalism educators today face the daunting task of staying current in a media environment that seems to be constantly changing. Our classes are already loaded with the fundamentals of reporting and writing. Now we have to add new ideas and tools available in a flourishing digital environment.

When it comes to keeping current, we can all be grateful our new media world is a social one. I could elaborate on hundreds (maybe thousands) of veins we can mine for teaching gold. But in surveying my behaviors over the past month, I find these are the go-to tools I rely on to know what’s new and, more importantly, what’s worthwhile.


Too often dismissed as a social-only time vampire, Facebook is one of the most important places where I get teaching ideas and feedback. It’s ideal for interaction and spontaneous discovery. I recommend joining the Social Journalism Educators group, as well as learning about Facebook’s tools for journalists.


I will not endeavor to create a “must list” of people to follow. It would be too long and too easy to leave off important people (at the risk of digitally offending them). Instead, I’m going to list a few people who do a good job following and retweeting other good people: DePaul’s Mike Reilley (@journtoolbox), Florida’s Mindy McAdams (@macloo), Columbia’s Sree Sreenivasan (@sree), NYU’s Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) and USC’s Robert Hernandez (@webjournalist).

You can easily pick up a great stream by following their RTs and digging into their lists. Plenty of other great thinkers and teachers abound. Help me highlight them by posting their handles in the comment section. Also consider pointing yourself and your students toward this recent roundup from USA Today.


Aimed at marketing and advertising professionals, MediaPost gives me regular insights into economics and behavioral trends to add to my classes. I subscribe to free email blasts on social media, metrics, search, and data and behavior. I’m also a major fan of their Daily Online Examiner, an analysis of policy affecting digital media. It’s often the first place I learn about controversial new efforts to regulate speech online.


Mashable rounds up news on technology, media, marketing and trends. You can follow it online or on Twitter (@mashable), but my favorite way to get updates is via the site’s daily e-newsletter.

That brings me to an important point. I don’t so much read Mashable as raid it. With the many demands of teaching already staring us down, we have to be time management mercenaries when it comes to using these resources.

There’s a wealth of content, but none of us should feel we have to be masters of all of it. Instead, I look for repeat hits when a new app, trend or insight gets mentioned across a few of these resources. Then I know it’s sticky enough to address in class.

I put the “how do you stay current” question to a number of other educators and got the same reply: Poynter.org. Poynter faculty Al Tompkins also serves up content on his own blog, which is especially helpful when it comes to ethics.

My list isn’t exhaustive, so I’d love to hear your ideas. After all, I turned to social media to help me draft this list in the first place. Thanks to Jody Strauch, Steve Fox, Sue Robinson, Gavin Adamson and Carrie Brown-Smith for their help.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.

More News

Back to News