New specialties for journalism schools

Journalism schools, like much else in the field, are being asked to do more and more.

The natural inclination is to treat digital media roughly like broadcasting: add some specific courses and maybe courses that integrate digital media with previous offerings, such as public affairs reporting online, and eventually a separate track.

But as more is added, something will need to be cut. I would fit in additions by reducing offerings in specific delivery methods. So students would be less specialized in any given medium.

For the present to midterm future, journalists will be expected to be work in multiple media, which is not synonymous with digital media. But some specialization will usually still be needed.

So I would divide the basic two tracks between “outside” and “inside” journalists.

The “outside” program would be reporting, in the broad sense of the term (such as by including photojournalism).

The “inside” program would cover editing and production.

Because the niche market is growing, another option is to offer more specialties in specific coverage subjects, such as sports and business. One flaw with this method is that undergraduates might be less likely to know which subject they want to specialize in.

An advantage would be that the journalism school wouldn’t need to do it alone. It could use complementary work by another school in the college. The same principle would apply for a track on the news business.

The civic media program I outlined at Poynter would encompass much of the above.

Looking further ahead, in the category of “tracks not yet invented” (as far as I know) would be “discourse media.”

I struggle with what to call this. “Social media” denotes only part of the idea. It is less evocative of the underlying value and principles.

The main idea is journalism as conversation — a mesh between participatory media and civic media. But it needs a relatively short name.

“Convening media” occurred to me after reading a post by Ryan Thornburg, where he asks: “If everyone’s a publisher, who will convene’ the public?”

To some degree, the public will convene itself. But journalists can and should help it. Thornburg’s view is one of the best I’ve seen for the role of journalism in the digital age.

He also notes that this is not a new idea. It follows the civic journalism or public journalism movement of the 1990s.

The idea was controversial then. One problem was the ambiguity.

I’ll use Philip Meyer’s definition and boil it down to this (the first paragraph after the bullet points):
“Each of these six goals is consistent with the traditional notion of the journalist as a free society’s watchdog. Their purpose is to focus the watchdog’s effort in a time of information overload. … Focusing the light of public attention on any one problem long enough to spark discourse leading to a solution is the object of public journalism. Therefore, a generic term for the various strains of public journalism might be ‘focus journalism’ or ‘discourse journalism.'”

Using “discourse media” instead of “discourse journalism” recognizes that this work is already being done outside of journalism.

Do you have other ideas for what to call this?

Published in: on March 22, 2009 at 5:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Missing from journalism schools

One component that seems to be weak or nonexistent at many journalism schools and education in general is media literacy. Given that many people are immersed in media, it makes sense to help people learn how to think about it more critically.

These efforts seem to be growing. This month, Stony Brook University announced a national proposal to teach news literacy to college students not majoring in journalism.

But news is only one part of mass media, and seldom the part people spend most of their time with.

Dan Gillmor wrote about this better than I would. He outlined not only why a broader goal should be pursued but also how a comprehensive program might be carried out.

Gillmor’s bullet points for everyone to learn are:

• Be Skeptical
• Exercise Judgement
• Open Your Mind
• Keep Asking Questions
• Learn Media Techniques

These five points are mostly framed from the audience perspective. From both the participant and producer view, I would explicity add knowledge about digital trails (but I’m not sure of the best verb to go with that).

Links about the business side of news

* INMA — International News Marketing Association

* AIMGroup — Advanced Interactive Media Group, which says, “We are experts in developing successful revenue strategies around automotive, real estate, recruitment and merchandise advertising.”

More can be found in the business section of my post about how journalism schools might best adapt to changes.

Published in: on March 22, 2009 at 1:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Love doesn’t scale

I wish I could take credit for the headline.

But I believe it was originated by open-source advocate Eric S. Raymond.

I read “Love doesn’t scale” in comments at ReadWriteWeb. There, Bernard Lunn had written about a “reverse network effect.” That is, virtual communities can become too big. This would be more than a case of diminishing returns. Instead, “as new people join, others are motivated to leave.”

Some comments there also refer to this effect as the Laffer curve.

According to Meatball Wiki: “When a group grows from dozens of individuals to thousands, it becomes impossible to feel any real acquaintance with more than a fraction of the population. When this happens, community standards and unwritten rules stop working. The group loses focus. Things fall apart.”

What this has to do with news is that part of the industry’s problem could be that the players got too big. Maybe we are less a part of the communities we serve, and maybe part of the reason is size, in various ways.

For one thing, in a smaller set-up, it’s more likely that various people would know each other and interact with each other.

Paul Bradshaw, of the Online Journalism Blog and a colleague at Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits, recently wrote about the potential for news site moderators to collect story leads from comments left at the site.

Bradshaw’s posts followed one by Todd Nash, an online community moderator for The Guardian.

My short answer is that I don’t think either of them are considering the issue in the best way, but Nash is closer to the mark. He does conclude, “Perhaps it is now time for the journalists to take inspiration from their communities as well.”

Compare these two questions, and the frames of reference.

1. “How can we (news organizations and journalists) best use the ‘community’ and interactive features of our Web site?”

2. “How can we (as above) best use our Web site to serve the community?”

I don’t mean to imply that they don’t intend the site to serve the community — but some of these pieces don’t well indicate that.

Why do many news sites consider moderation to be policing? A better model would be a moderator on a panel, who coordinates and facilitates discussion.

More good perspectives:

* Clyde Bentley of the Missouri School of Journalism — He says, “Newspapers are farms, not factories.”

* Howard Owens, publisher of the Batavian, and former director of  digital publishing for Gatehouse Media — See “The imperative of localism and local news” (and more).

*Journalism That Matters — Key facets of JTM include high-tech and high-touch; “storytelling to create healthy communities” (although I’d vote for “foster” instead of “create”); and journalism as conversation.

For myself, I acknowledge that I don’t mix much with people where I live. On a copy editor’s schedule, it’s hard to mix much with people in general. But, for instance, at least I remind my paper that not everyone goes to college and works in an office.

My favorite metaphor of a good newspaper is that it of a village plaza. It’s the hub. But if you don’t mix with the people, it’s an empty shell.

How should journalism schools adapt?

On Monday, the Poynter Institute will hold an online chat on What Do College Journalism Students Need to Learn?

It’s especially intended to address changes in the news industry and how J-schools might best adapt.

Amy Gahran, a colleage at Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits, has made many good points about this before. She won’t be able to make the chat, but she laid a good foundation for it at her blog, Contentious.

Some possible discussion questions, mainly about nontraditional topics:
* How much do students already know, and how much does it vary, and are they appropriately challenged throughout the spectrum?
* What should all journalists learn?
* What should all mass media students learn?
* What should some journalism or mass media students know that is often lacking in the curriculum?
* Which media topics, if any, should be encouraged or required of students outside the school?
* With the increasing additions, what should be considered to be dropped or reduced, from either requirements or offerings?
* What might best help educators and their institutions carry out appropriate changes?

Here are some other related links.


* Case studies by Jane Stevens
* “The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth,” by Clayton M. Christensen and Michael E. Raynor
* “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More,” by Chris Anderson (book and blog)
* Newspaper Next Blueprint for Transformation, by the the American Press Institute, Innosight and a task force
* Poynter’s Bill Mitchell on Business Models Essential to Journalism Training
* Poynter’s business model section of its Transformation Tracker
* Syllabus for Saving Journalism, by Philip Meyer
* Syllabus for Digital Media & Entrepeneurship, by Dan Gillmoor


* Meatball Wiki: “Meatball is a community of active practitioners striving to teach each other how to organize people using online tools.”
* “The E-Democracy E-Book: Democracy is Online 2.0,” by Steven Clift
* The Online Community Cookbook, Digital Edge Report, by Rich Gordon, from the Newspaper Association of American and the Digital Media Federation
* The Rise of Solutions Journalism, by Susan Benesh, Columbia Journalism Review
* Solution Journalism blog
* Syllabus for Blogging, We the Media and Virtual Communities, by Paul Jones, at the J-school of UNC-CH
* “ We the Media: Grassroots Journalism By the People, For the People,” by Dan Gillmor
* “Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything,” by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams


* Computational journalism
Georgia Tech — Report on conference in spring of 2008
– Duke University — job post for professor, and article and Q&A about planned program
* “Journalism 2.0: How to Survive and Thrive,” by Mark Briggs, available in book form or free online.
* Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency, by Mindy McAdams
* Testable, Measurable Skills We Should Teach in J-School by Mindy McAdams


* Basic Principles of Online Journalism, by fellow Tidbitter Paul Bradshaw
* Digital media resources from the NAA, Newspaper Association of America
* Digital media master’s degree program at the University of Washington program for master of communication
* MIT’s Center for Future Civic Media
* My outline for a college program in civic media


Interesting links, found when looking for information related to the homeless:

Street Papers: A Guide to Getting Started (PDF, but it loads pretty quickly), from the North American Street Newspaper Association

Taxi developed a jacket designed for homeless people to stuff with newspapers to keep warm.

That was posted by Springwise, which has a category for innovations in media and publishing. Here’s the top 10 from 2008:

  1. MagCloud — Magazine publishing for everyone & every niche
  2. Faber & Faber — Out-of-print books, printed on demand
  3. Flat World Knowledge — Open source approach to textbook publishing
  4. Blurb — Marketplace for book makers
  5. Kidmondo & BabyChapters — From online baby blogs to printed baby books
  6. HarperCollins — Publisher hopes crowds will spot next bestseller
  7. Relay & WWF — All-you-can-read digital magazines
  8. Random House — Selling books by the chapter
  9. Kluster — Crowdsourcing platform
  10. Offbeat Guides, Tripwolf, HSBC & Dorling KindersleyPersonalized travel guides

That’s all from Springspotters — the “world’s largest idea-spotting network.”

“The Springspotter Network consists of more than 8,000 global business and marketing-savvy spotters, who recognize a new business idea when they come across one. A vibrant mix of cool hunting, new business ideas and trend spotting, findings are sent to our team of researchers and editors, and may be featured on sites like Springwise new business ideas or Anyone can join, and accepted contributions get rewarded with cool gifts.”

Published in: on February 15, 2009 at 4:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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Gone fishin’

News Atoms is on hiatus for a while.

I’ll be fishing in another class, mashing words and data. (Math is fun!)

I’m also tending Wired Journalists, a social networking site “to help journalists who have few resources on hand other than their own desire to make a difference and help journalism grow into its new 21st century role.” It was started by Howard Owens, Ryan Sholin, and Zac Echola. I hope you’ll join us.

I’m stirring some other pots; we’ll see which one cooks first.

Published in: on January 29, 2008 at 1:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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Lingering longer at USA Today

Readers spend more time per Web page at the Web site of USA Today than at those of other major U.S. papers.

USA Today gets about 1.2 minutes per page, but the median for the top 10 sites is 0.75 minutes per page. The lowest rate is at the San Francisco Chronicle, at 0.42 minutes per page.

You can see a table to see how I figured the numbers, or you can compare by using a bar graph.

“TV/PV” is the time per visitor divided by the pages per visitor. The source is a list of 100 top newspaper Web sites from the Newspaper Association of America.

Published in: on January 16, 2008 at 4:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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Findings: mixing it up for mental stimulation

On my computer monitor at work is a saying from a fortune cookie: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.”

 But sometimes it’s hard to imagine doing something else. I don’t mean just “I am fill-in-the-blank-occupation and this is what I’ll always do.” I don’t mean just work, and I don’t mean deliberate resistance.

I mean that it can be difficult to perceive or to think in a different way from what we as individuals normally do.

And that can be a drawback, because grooves can become ruts.

My friend Anna Haynes pointed me to a New York Times article by Janet Rae-Cupree, who says, “it becomes nearly impossible to look beyond what you know and think outside the box you’ve built around yourself.”

This is called the curse of knowledge. Some examples are: “It’s why engineers design products ultimately useful only to other engineers. It’s why managers have trouble convincing the rank and file to adopt new processes. And it’s why the advertising world struggles to convey commercial messages to consumers.”

I think it’s good for people in general and journalists in particular to do things we don’t ordinarily do, to travel outside our comfort zone, in order to broaden our exposure and stretch ourselves.

I acknowledge that I should get out more, but there are many ways to poke outside your natural self. My paper, The News & Observer, requires that all journalists have some training outside their own field every year.

But we can step outside ourselves by doing something as simple as randomly changing the radio station and listening to whatever pops up. Or for the 21st century, we can do it with random web pages.

Published in: on January 2, 2008 at 2:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Findings: AP, and revenue

Doug Fisher at Common Sense Journalism reviews several changes for The Associated Press.

Pat Thornton at The Journalism Iconoclast has ideas about how newspapers can make more money online. These include marketing to current nonadvertisers and learning lessons from Web powerhouses. For instance, he suggests suggests making classifieds free or but selling ads around them or selling extra services, such as featured ads. (Found via Amy Gahran’s Contentious.)

Published in: on December 30, 2007 at 7:37 am  Leave a Comment  
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