What journalism students need to learn now

Is blogging still relevant to journalism? This is one of the questions Mark Briggs is considering as he begins work on the third edition of his popular textbook Journalism Next. In his blog post, he listed the following chapters:

  1. How the web works
  2. Blogging for better journalism
  3. Crowd-powered collaboration
  4. Microblogging and social media
  5. Going mobile
  6. Visual storytelling with photographs
  7. Making audio journalism visible
  8. Telling stories with video
  9. Data-driven journalism and digitizing your life
  10. Managing news as a conversation
  11. Building a digital audience for news

This is a good outline for beginner journalism students. This is not a list of things they should learn in an elective course — all of these are basic to being a reporter in the 21st century. The first and second required courses in a journalism curriculum need to cover all of these.

But — what else? What is missing, as Briggs updates his book?

Encryption for reporters

I think he needs a new chapter about encryption and security of online communications. There was a lot of talk about that at ONA14, and while most journalists have no clue what that even means, it’s going to be important to every journalist who needs to protect a source and keep his/her identity private.

Blogging still matters

The chapter on blogging remains important because there are so many different types of blogs, including many different varieties of journalism blogs. One example that’s great to examine and discuss is The Lede from The New York Times. Reasons:

  • It doesn’t duplicate NYT articles but instead enhances, extends them.
  • It also includes a photo or (often) a non-NYT video.
  • It includes well-chosen links, including links to off-site content.

Too many journalists and journalism educators are not really up-to-date on the varieties of blogs and blogging. Just having students “write a blog about a beat” is not enough. We need more analysis and comparison in our journalism courses. Many students are unaware of the variety of styles and approaches the exist now, and educators need to deliberately expose the students to these.

Social skills for journalists

I think these three chapters need to be combined, possibly into two (new) chapters:

  • Crowd-powered collaboration
  • Microblogging and social media
  • Managing news as a conversation

Reaching out to a geographic community OR to a community of interest requires the journalist to listen, daily. That means monitoring the conversation in a managed, deliberate way. While 90 percent (or more) of “the conversation” takes place on social media, not all social media platforms play the same way for different types of content. Students are very unaware of these subtleties. People read an article or view a video, but then the conversation takes place elsewhere — not on a news website. Journalists need to embed themselves in the conversation and play an active role in it.

Audio and video: Not optional

Audio and video are important for all journalism students to learn — and from what I’m told by editors and managers at organizations such as the Miami Herald, it’s all iPhone now. That’s not to say we don’t need broadcast quality equipment and training — students in TV specializations do, of course. But every student needs to be able to capture clean, usable audio AND clear, usable video on an iPhone. Concentrate on impromptu interviews, man on the street. Can the student capture a good 60-second statement from a stranger on video, not shaking, not wobbling, with clear audio? This is a key skill today.

What do you think? You can tell Mark at mark@journalism20.com (email) or @markbriggs on Twitter.


3 Comments on “What journalism students need to learn now

  1. Pingback: This Week in Review: Vox and the wonk boom, and Comcast defends its TWC merger plans

  2. I’m thinking a preface, afterward or appendix that tells students how to keep up with the latest software and apps for digital newsgathering and publishing. A list would be good, but it will go out of date. A method (which websites, blogs, Twitter accounts) for product launches would be very helpful.

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