What do you need in a great J-School education?

Last night, an SJMC strat comm student tweeted this:
Article about how journalism schools are failing. My @uw_sjmc classes already address these issues http://bit.ly/ajpK9g . #myschoolisbetter

Here’s the story on MediaShift from PBS:

MediaShift . How Journalism Teachers are Failing, and How to Stop It | PBS.

I was glad to read this student’s assessment that we are already including these concepts in SJMC (as well as his bragging hashtag that we are better).

Perhaps most important to me was that this was a story about journalism but a strat comm student pointed to it. I think that speaks to how we have been able to cut across the traditional silos in media training and deliver lessons that are common across fields.

Regardless of this student’s praise, though, we all have to ask ourselves repeatedly: Are we integrating multimedia in our courses effectively?

The practical training is all well and good. When you finished J345, were you able to edit together an audio spot? (Through some combination of in-class teaching, extra-class training and your own try/fail/try again/succeed?)

But the conceptual is far more important to me. Did your combo of journalism track classes teach you how the move from appointment listening to time-shifted mobile or desktop listening has affected timeliness as a communication value in radio and added emphasis to storytelling?

No journalism course can do everything. Witness the 10 pounds shoved into the 5-pound sack of J202 to understand that. But we want them to be moving forward and keeping pace with changing media. We cannot forget the foundational principles. Ethics, for instance, is the constant that gets greatest weight in my courses. But we always need to be attending to how those principles play out in new and different ways.

But I still don’t want to be the mayor of Vilas on FourSquare.

2 thoughts on “What do you need in a great J-School education?

  1. The MediaShift piece by Wayne McPhail make several points that get lost in in its provocative headline. The most important one is that the journalism ecology has fundamentally shifted. It’s not a question of whether we teach our students the latest technology or not. Rather, it’s the more difficult problem of whether a generation of journalism professors, like myself, who have grown up in the neatly divided worlds of print, tv, radio, advertising, and public relations understand that the products of journalism are no longer used by their audiences (at least not those under 40) in those categories. The narratives that we grew up with were constrained by space (column inches, layout) and time (certain kinds of deadlines, the arc of a news package). Those boundaries have broken, not because of bloggers or anyone else, but because the world has changed. The social networks that have become the organizing principle and main modality of many young people’s lives are also, now, the organizing principle of news consumption. It’s not a question of whether we like it or not. It’s a question of whether we can recognize these world changes and incorporate them into our curriculum. I think that many of us are trying and some of us succeed, some of the time. But, despite our very early move into the multimedia training that now everyone is catching up to, the more fundamental issues still affect every aspect of our curriculum and teaching, or should.

  2. I think that part of the issue here for J-Schools is the lack of any refined template for digital journalism. In the print worlds, we had very specific forms: one version of a headline, lead, nutgraph, quote – beginning, middle, end. Today the entire article is in flux. But how do you teach newswriting when anything they print can be hacked, modified, manipulated, aggregated and regurgitated within a few seconds of publishing? How do you even use something like Foursquare or Twitter in producing news while still adhering to fundamental elements of socially responsible, accurate, significant, contextual journalism?
    And tomorrow all of these technologies will be different or will have added apps or features that then open entirely new ways of producing news. So it all has to be completely re-conceptualized. That’s exciting but I also think it can be really overwhelming for professors — especially given the ephemeral nature of all of it.
    I’ve got a lot of ideas, and I am working right now on a pedagogical piece that would make some specific suggestions for exactly HOW to teach within this new paradigm, but I would love to hear OTHER people’s thoughts about it. Please email me at robinson4@wisc.edu if you have any suggestions.

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