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Teaching Online Journalism

Rethinking journalism education

A new journalism concentration at New York University promises to take an innovative approach to j-school:

Studio 20 expects all applicants to have a keen interest in journalism and improving it, a strong command of written English, a devotion to high standards in reportage and verification, and a familiarity with creative uses of the World Wide Web. It also requires applicants to have obtained competence in at least one of the following three skill sets:

  1. Capturing audio and editing it, or
  2. Video recording, production and editing, or
  3. Web skills (which could be production, design and coding, or Web journalism and blogging).

I found the three divisions of prerequisite know-how especially interesting. I like them.

First, I like it that still photography is not among them — it is not a sufficiently advanced digital skill to quality you for this program.

Second, I like the separation of presentation and data skills (No. 3) from the multimedia reporting skills (No. 1 and 2). Why? because too many folks think teaching “online journalism” means teaching HTML and CSS. What about the act of reporting? That is not done with HTML.

What I disagree with: Including mere “Web journalism and blogging” in No. 3 opens the door to a lot of people who are too scared of technology to succeed in this program, in my opinion. I’ve seen a lot of students who started up a free Blogger blog and barely even know how to add a link, let alone anything more challenging, to their online work.


Categories: teaching


12 Comments

  1. [...] Another splendid J-prof is Mindy McAdams, who teaches at the University of Florida. On her blog, Teaching Online Journalism, Mindy observes the innovative requirements for the class: Studio 20 expects all applicants to have [...]

  2. Equally interesting, I think, is the pedagogical approach, which sounds like problem-based learning. Also, the ‘how to apply’ section notes that ‘applicants should be aware that Studio 20′s working philosophy is: “bring skills, share skills, get skills.”‘, which suggests that peer learning is a key element.

  3. M says:

    Why is video capture assumed to be more difficult than still capture? The skills needed to be a good still photographer are just the same as being a good videographer.

  4. “M” – Not sure what you mean by your question. I think getting good still shots (especially journalistic quality) is equally as difficult as getting good video. Non-practitioners might think it’s easier to use a still camera, but getting good material takes a lot of practice in either medium.

    However, the full suite of digital video skills – including editing and compressing and uploading – requires a significant investment of time. Someone who knows who to optimize a photo in Photoshop and put it up on a blog does not have an equivalent skill set.

  5. Sandy Olson says:

    Could you explain you dissing of still photography? Does not really make sense. There is a definitely a place for it in media presentations or don’t you read teh New York Times?

    If you are saying that to qualify for the program you need more skills than just still photography, I get it but that is not really what you said.

  6. @Sandy Olson – I bear no disrespect toward still photojournalism. But being proficient at still photography alone “is not a sufficiently advanced digital skill to quality you for this program.”

    There are plenty of great PJs out there who have stepped up and upgraded their skills to include video shooting and/or editing, or Web programming, etc. There are others who have not done so.

  7. Kay says:

    I have to agree with your view on “Web journalism and blogging”: So much of it is word processing using a different tool and not much else.

  8. Ben Hasty says:

    Following up on what Sandy Olson wrote, I see why the case could be made to not include photography. However that case breaks down with the inclusion of “Capturing audio and editing it.”

    As a photojournalist who has done work capturing and editing audio, I do not find it to be a more advanced digital skill than photography. Both can be equally simple or complex. Someone who is great at working with audio has just the same chance as a photojournalist of having not stepped up and upgraded their skills.

    It seems to me that it would make more sense to have a longer list of skills, including photography, with the requirement to have competence in two or three of them.

  9. We’re missing the idea that “still” photography is not still anymore. We are not limited to one or two pictures, as with newspaper or magazine presentation. Instead, the photo slide show is a new, articulate use of the still camera’s ability to freeze moments in time. While not as complicated as video editing, compression and posting, creating photo slide shows with or without audio requires a daunting set of skills, including caption writing, one of the toughest writing forms to master. And don’t forget audio slide shows.

  10. @Michael O’Donnell – You’re quite right. And if a photojournalist lacks skill set No. 1 – “Capturing audio and editing it,” she or he can’t play. Thus photo skills alone are not sufficient.

  11. jay says:

    As a soon-to-be grad of a mid-level j-school in the Midwest, I must say schools need to adopt and adapt these new technologies very quickly.

    Many of course know this — and maybe it doesn’t need to be said — but I’d like to point out the fact that interviewing, reporting and style are still the bulk of what needs to be taught. We 20-somethings can, and have, figured out how to edit a ten minute video without PHD carriers showing us. But FOIAs, sourcing, AP Style, etc. are the foundations of our trade.

    Sure new flip cams and CSS become more important with each passing day, but let us not forget what got us here.

    Great site!

  12. [...] University journalism programs got the multimedia religion in 2009. Curriculums are finally being rewritten in ways that reflect the new digital future of journalism. Students, hopefully, will now graduate with a skill set that will better prepare them for a multitasking future. As I’ve said many times before: “There can no longer be  ‘just reporters’ or ‘just photojournalists.’ We all need to be multimedia, multi-platform savvy.” [...]

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