Future of Journalism

Universities Need to Foster Collaboration Between Journalism, Computer Science and Business Schools

This post was originally published Jan. 20 for the Carnival of Journalism.

When I look back at my college years (2000-2004 at Western Kentucky University), I wish I did two things differently:

  1. That I listened to my mother and majored in computer science or some other IT program. At the time, I didn’t see the connection. Ironically, I knew that the Internet would be a force to be reckoned with when it came to news content. Given all the debate as of late over whether journalists should have programming skills, this regret hits hard these days.
  2. That I took advantage of my journalism school’s multimedia program, which was emerging during my final years of college. Again, I realized early the importance of other forms of storytelling such as photography and audio sideshows. But it never occurred to me to learn these things for myself. (I also realize that I was getting sick of going to school and the prospect of spending an extra two years to complete another program seem was a dreadful idea at the time.)

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Multimedia, Teaching

Multimedia Skills Assessment Survey

In developing the syllabus for the Multimedia Journalism course at PLNU (WRI 430), I tried to keep students’ future employment in mind. What skills are journalists missing when they enter the marketplace? What are employers looking for? What projects can I assign that will help them get hired?

I decided to focus our time on these areas:

  • Optimized news writing for online audience
  • Storytelling across all types of media
  • Maximizing the strengths of each medium
  • Innovation in story approach
  • Strong online presence
  • Fluency in social media
  • Live field reporting for Web

On the first day of class, I surveyed students on their abilities with multimedia. I asked about areas we probably won’t cover (I want to do HTML5 instead of Flash as much as possible), but the results were enlightening. I’ve already adjusted the course schedule; they’re more advanced than I anticipated.

The survey’s emphasis on technology shouldn’t imply we’ll only work on building tech skills. I plan to focus our time in class on big picture concepts, optimizing story through the technology. But in order to tell stories powerfully online, the technical elements need to become second nature.

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