Tuesday, March 17, 2009

will the kids please stand up


First I read this: A piece in Salon.com entitled "why teach journalism". What I liked about Cary Tennis' reply to the query from a long-time J-teacher was the following:

As to the conventions of story form and lingo that are often taught in journalism school, and as to the many artifacts and customs that make up our lore, we are tradespeople and we are proud of what we know how to do. We like our tools and our lingo. But we must be smart and nimble, and if we remain sentimentally attached to the artifacts of our trade in the face of massive technological change, then we are no better than GM.

So I do not think it is such a terrible thing that your journalism students are entering an uncertain world. It's the kind of world that is ripe for enterprising journalists. It is the kind of world that needs to be reported on and explained.

Where information is kept hasn't changed all that much. The information is still in people's heads and in official records. How to get it remains much the same.

Leave it to your students to create new modes for the buying and selling of this information. Their generation will do this. I feel confident about that.

Teach them how to find out what is true and what is hidden, and how to say it so others can understand what it means and why it is important. Then you will have done your job and given them the gift of a lifetime.

It parallels what I have long thought about teaching j classes: it's about the values, the principles, the news judgment, the ethics, the reporting. While inverted pyramids and podcasts and sound slides and 60-second videos go in and out of vogue, it's the mission rather than the razzle-dazzle that matters most. And that's what we teach. Or should. Kids end up going into journalism because they believe in it -- not because they like to write or shoot video. They will be the ones to redefine the business of it. I wrote about this in a long research review several years ago -- before the industry began to implode. My point:
Indeed, as the mediascape morphs at breakneck speed, what's state-of-the-art technique today may well be obsolete tomorrow. Clearly, the journalists who will succeed amidst the swirling change as well as assert leadership in taking their institution forward will be those whose journalism education taught them to think critically about journalism

And so then I read this: A piece from Time.com on the future of journalism via the latest Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism report. The report is nothing if not pessimistic. It starts with this: "If the news agenda was narrow in 2007, it constricted considerably more in 2008..."

Time.com summarizes the highlights (no irony intended) of the report, all of it dismal, but ends on a somewhat positive note:
... as the authors of this report make clear, there is no magic bullet. But if the solutions aren't obvious, the report's overall message is: Will the future leaders of journalism please, please stand up.
It's all about the kids. See above. bk

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