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Teaching Online Journalism

Is J-school relevant? (#wjchat)

@killbutton Q1 Yes, because the foundation of journalism is SO important. Journos need a strong foundation in ethics! #wjchat

@dnvolz Brian Williams never got any college degree and is considered a top journalist even in an ever-changing market #wjchat

@mhinojosa Q1 Yes, I think it’s more important now to go to J-school. More and more we work alone and don’t have others to teach us the ropes #wjchat

Last night I helped to moderate an organized Twitter chat. (Here’s how a Twitter chat works.) Robert Hernandez (a k a @webjournalist) is the juggernaut behind #wjchat; he’s aided by a cheery posse including @killbutton, @kimbui, and @RobinJP.

Here’s Robert’s own account of how and why he launched #wjchat.

@wcochran Q2 What would replace J-school? “Indentured servitude”? #wjchat

@rohanv Q2 English majors w/PoliSci minors. People are not going to shed the idea of a degree. #wjchat

@PDXdrew Q2 Nothing can replace real-world experience. Apprenticeships are a good idea. But you need a rounded education for balance #wjchat

We met up at TypeWith.me a few days in advance to discuss the topic of the chat and to come up with some questions. This provides a no-frills environment for group authoring in real time. I hadn’t used TypeWith.me before (thanks, Robert!), and I’m already thinking of some ways it could be used by students to rapidly produce some brainstormed work.

The topic of the chat is set, but the questions remain fluid and flexible up to and during the live chat itself. Robert ran the chat last night (as @wjchat) and also participated as himself. My role was less that of a moderator, I think, than that of a facilitator. I re-tweeted the Q’s, responded to various tweets and re-tweeted others as they struck my fancy. I tried to highlight remarks made by different people — there were a lot of people in the chat!

@alexisgrant Q3 Biggest regret re: J-school experience? Wish I’d learned more technical skills. And how to edit video — but it wasn’t big yet. #wjchat

@justinNXT Q3 Biggest success in J-school? Finally understanding data, databases and how to use numbers thanks to a CAR class! #wjchat

One of my favorite Q’s asked the crowd to list the top five skills, ranked in order of importance, for a student of journalism to learn:

@kbeninato Q4 1) Empathy 2) Grammar 3) Skepticism 4) Creativity 5) A Sense of Humor #wjchat (Can drinking be an alternate?)

@lisawilliams #wjchat Q4 Basic grounding in how to launch & run a sit that’s more sophisticated than a Tumblr blog. Flash, not so much.

@Amadeus3000 Q4 1) curious 2) organized (of information and yourself) 3) unselfish – what others want, not you 4) driven/innovative 5) transparency #wjchat

If you want to review last night’s chat, see the “room” at TweetChat (you can also use TweetChat to follow during the live chat; it updates in real time) — but be warned, new tweets with the hashtag #wjchat will come in at the top, so next week all the tweets from last night will be buried under the new ones. You can also search #wjchat at Twitter.

Update (June 4): See a transcript of the complete chat — provided by What the Hashtag?!

A few people said the chat was hard for them to follow at Twitter. I used a new column in TweetDeck and found that worked well, but if you don’t use TweetDeck, you could just use TweetChat in your browser.

@brookevandam Q5 As a Journ Prof I would say students are more tech and SM savvy but only when it serves their self interests #wjchat

@notblue Q5 Fiction. It’s not if you’re older/younger; it’s how adaptable you are. An “ooh, what does this do?” mindset doesn’t hurt #wjchat

@kimbui Q6 When I was in school, my irritation with some tenured profs is that they had too little real world experience #wjchat

@Scheopner Q6 when I was in J-school, one tenured prof worked summers in TV newsrooms as a grip, carrying camera equipment, to stay current. #wjchat

There were nine primary questions, with a couple of secondary Q’s thrown in. You can read them here (at Google Docs).

I’ll bet some clever programmer has devised a way to scrape Twitter for all tweets including a particular hashtag, but after some sincere searching, I wasn’t able to find anything that was plug-and-play. See the link at the end of this post — complete transcript!

@AsianStig Q7 Given that the platforms keep changing, J-schools could place more focus on social media sites that have the most impact. #wjchat

@McKennaEwen #wjchat Schools should reward students who work outside the curriculum to master 1 or 2 skills. There should be room to specialize.

@CindyRoyal Q7 challenge is teaching broad range of skills while integrating w new concepts, trends, ideas – perspective. Can be done, though #wjchat

@andymboyle I also wish that professors forced kids to learn to write on deadline. What’s this two weeks to write a 500-word story shit? #wjchat

@BrianManzullo Q8 Newspaper layout teaches core design skills, which still apply to Web/iPad/mobile/etc., even if in a different way. #wjchat

@jaosullivanx Q8 Things like layout and video should be integrated into every class, not set aside specifically for a semester. #wjchat

@glennluther I think a class on the business side of freelancing would be so amazing. I wish that I could take that today #wjchat

@laurakeeley Q9 I’m not sure dividing J school further is the way to go. I like the idea of less concentrations, more overlap #wjchat

@dblanchard Q9 I’m just worried the new options will actually pigeonhole many students, depending on how easy it is to mix and match. #wjchat

@ZTracer Q9 Specialization is important – I think Mizz decision calls into question the notion that J school is best prep for journalism #wjchat

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in #wjchat No. 17 — I really enjoyed it! Hope to see you all again next Wednesday at 8 p.m. EDT (5 p.m. PDT).

See a transcript of the complete chat — provided by What the Hashtag?! Thanks to @CindyRoyal for the tip!


Categories: multimedia, storytelling, teaching, training


7 Comments

  1. Editer says:

    I’m glad someone asked about the Missouri J-school’s new curriculum. I think you called it “confusing”. I’ve been thinking about it the past week or so, and I’ve come to believe that MU is doing it right.

    One common complaint about J-school grads, going back decades, is that they don’t know much about any subjects besides “how-to-report/edit/photograph”. And in the day of the entrepreneurial journalist, understanding a topic and making it one’s own is a crucial skill.

    It appears MU is addressing these challenges in an innovative way with lots of potential. Much depends on execution, of course, but I really like the approach.

    Thanks for your work on #wjchat! One of these times I’ll be able to participate live.

    Brian B

  2. I’ve reviewed five or six of the 25 “interest areas” in Missouri’s new curriculum plan. I think that as a student, I would like it. But when I was about 19 years old, I might have pigeonholed myself if offered this set of options.

    I admire the folks at Mizzou for spending the time to put these specific listings together for their students. It would be very time-consuming to update lists such as these at my university, because other colleges and departments are changing the game plan all the time, and so we would have to revise all the recommended outside courses each year!

  3. [...] school for? (Jeff Sonderman) • J-stuents totally unprepared for journalism (Rachel Kauffman) • Is j-school relevant? (Mindy [...]

  4. [...] – Mindy McAdams at Teaching Online Journalism brings forth a debate:  Is Journalism School Necessary? or Worth It? I’m of two minds.  I think there have been a number of great journalists who never went or [...]

  5. [...] Biography Mindy McAdams joined the faculty of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida in August 1999 as the Knight Chair for journalism technologies and the democratic process. She teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in online journalism. She is Professor of Journalism, College of Journalism and Communications, University of Florida. She also maintains a blog, where she feeds into debates such as ‘Is J-School Relevant?’ [...]

  6. Sam Tongue says:

    While I think it’s important for students to take internships or ‘apprenticeships’ as some called them, I do think the journalism school aspect is important. The key word here isn’t ‘journalism,’ but rather ‘school.’ When students are put into environments that are not only rich in journalistic skills but also in world affairs, I believe that’s when they really thrive.

    I feel that the biggest problem right now isn’t our journalism education, but rather the emphasis on having only a journalism education. There needs to be more focus on educating students of the social, political and environmental issues that exist today.

    The world of journalism coverage may be changing, but the general issues journalists have been covering have been the same for centuries. Once we are aware of these, our education at Journalism school becomes vastly more valuable and important.

  7. Naomi says:

    Here is editor Rob O’Regan’s advice to his daughter as she headed off to j-school: http://emediavitals.com/blog/17/tomorrows-journalists-must-embrace-their-inner-geek

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