Posted on February 6, 2008
J-school education in the digital era
In a conversation with a colleague yesterday, I confronted a question about what journalism students need to know. Not that I haven’t thought about it before — of course I have. But in this case, I found some of my long-held assumptions challenged.
My colleague said newsrooms want to hire journalists who can report for various platforms and use a variety of reporting tools and techniques in the field. No argument from me on that score.
What made me chafe was the assertion that there’s no reason to teach HTML and CSS, because newsrooms all have content management systems, and design is done by people with a graphic design background — not by journalists.
There’s no reason to teach the tasks performed by online producers, because that’s all the same as (print) editing — or else it’s monkey work, and teaching that would be a waste of time.
Why shouldn’t journalism students learn basic HTML and CSS? Why not learn how to optimize photos for online? (While they’re at it, they ought to learn Photoshop ethics too.) These are hardly rocket science, and a little knowledge in this vein can go a long way in a pinch — on deadline, or late at night when news breaks, or on the road. It’s not as if a journalist will always have a full support staff available — a full complement of programmers, designers, and trouble-shooters ready to step in and fix things.
Is it sufficient to teach students only how to report for digital platforms — without teaching them how to produce, edit, design, and package?
Are you a digital storyteller? Do you speak infographics? Do you dream in ActionScript? If you answered yes to these questions, USA TODAY.com may be the place for you. USA TODAY is currently seeking experienced multimedia designers, with a journalism background, to join a progressive design and multimedia team.
Candidates must be:
- Well versed in Flash CS3. Advanced ActionScripting a plus
- Show strong sense of design
- Must know how to utilize multimedia techniques to tell stories that will engage the reader
- Must work well in a deadline situation
- Must work well with a team of talented individuals
That sure sounds like someone with a j-school education, doesn’t it?
I’m not saying that every j-school should strive to turn out hundreds of graduates qualified for this particular job. However, I do think students in a good j-school should be given the opportunity to become so qualified.