The future… Who will lead it

I have always trusted that higher ed will be a leader in how journalism will look in the future. There are so few environments where you can experiment and push ideas forward like a higher ed environment. The problem: Higher ed runs in committees. Agile changes are rare.

So the Missouri School of Journalism is spending a lot of time talking about how we can be more agile. Should it be focused on a change in curriculum? Should it be a change in focus for the faculty? Should we move forward with more partnerships with the journalism industry? Should the journalism school work on more interdisciplinary partnerships?

So I’m trying to take some time to envision the future and what kind of faculty structure would change the way we teach. What would you do if you had a blank slate and the chance to teach journalism?

9 comments ↓

#1 Steve Cusumano on 05.03.09 at 10:56 pm

While reading what I can only describe as a well-thought-out rant by Mike Doyle on how print news will survive a move to the Internet, I came across these two paragraphs:

“Instead of journalism schools telling their students that sharing their opinion is the news equivalent of kicking puppies and robbing old ladies, why not require them to scribe blogs, instead? Sharing news, opinion, and perhaps most importantly, themselves, online would help aspiring journalists build an audience platform on which to launch their careers in the coming, opinion-centric online news universe with instant relevance.

Through blogging, young journalists would also learn how to build and manage online communities and enter into a dialogue with readers via comments, forums, and social media tools (Twitter and Facebook, anyone?), another key expectation of the blogosphere. Best of all, once installed in their careers as online news gatherers, instead of building readership from scratch, they could simply take their blog audience with them.”

The focus of this piece is really on the separation between fact and opinion, but at the heart of is the need for journalists being willing to let the readers know who they really are. What they like, what they don’t like, what they’re interested in. Not all of it has to be relevant to the particular story, but it does build trust between the reader and the journalist.

Coming through the J-School, one that was hammered into me over and over was that the most valuable thing the Missouri School of Journalism provides is “real experience”. You graduate with more than a degree, you graduate with a set of clips or tapes that show to a potential employer what you are capable of. In that vein, is there really anything more valuable to a future employer than a young journalist who a) has the skills and ability to build a community and b) can “take that blog audience with them”?

#2 Jen Reeves on 05.03.09 at 11:28 pm

You know Steve – there is that question of taking the blog audience with them. That’s another issue to think about blogging. If you blog for a company, you’re using your own personality. The writer him/herself drives the blog and its popularity… But its owned by the newsroom. Right? So when the newsroom wants to change the direction or the tone of a blog, is that appropriate? How should I teach my students about blogging for a newsroom? I blog, but I don’t really blog for my newsroom. I blog for myself, I blog for my industry… But I make it clear that what I say here doesn’t reflect on any of my employers.

It’s a challenge that will only continue as more of our journalist go into the “real world” and succeed at these “new” skills.

I guess I have another blog post brewing. 🙂

#3 Brad on 05.04.09 at 12:02 am

To Steve’s point, there are two sides to building a community:

One is setting the tone through letting readers know who one really is.

But the other, more important facet is setting the ground rules of the community, so that a wider variety of opinions and voices can be heard. There’s a level of self-discipline required to adhere to one’s own rules for community behavior. The reward is that the community steward becomes more of a conduit than a source, and thus the information value is multiplied (cf. slashdot.org).

If I were to suggest one thing to teach journalists, it’s how to steward a community.

As to “the newsroom” owning or changing the direction of a blog, that’s classic print media thinking inappropriately applied to new media. Any organization that attempts to both “sponsor” blogs and own or control their direction will (sooner rather than eventually) be recognized and deprecated as astroturf (fake grassroots). Guidelines for legality and appropriateness are one thing; organizational attempts to control the messages of individual bloggers are doomed to be tagged “epic FAIL.”

Controlling the message of real bloggers is censorship, and as the old saying goes, “The Internet perceives censorship as failure and routes around it.”

#4 Megan on 05.04.09 at 2:59 pm

I have been researching news aggregation – an interesting change in a lot of fundamentals – who owns the news, who is a “true” journalist, is fair use still “fair.” It’s an interesting time. And one in which you begin to realize that the value of the news can be simply that a journalist has added context or relevance to the news by putting together a more limited, more meaningful view of the volume of information available.

To be sure, I question, whether, in the future (or even in the present) how much of news belongs to the outlet that the author works for, if he/she even works for one. Source trust journalists themselves, not necessarily “the media.”

MU has always done a great job of teaching journalists to be thinkers (I’m a proud alum!). Now we need to be teaching journalists to be communicators, and bearers of a standard. Anyone with a mini digital camera and an internet connection can be a “journalist” so we need to be teaching students how to carry the torch of the journalists creed independent from a media outlet or educational background. So that the overall standard of what’s available isn’t diminished just because anyone with a blog has become a news aggregator.

My 2 cents. Love following you and what seems like half the j-school on Twitter!!

#5 CJ on 05.04.09 at 3:03 pm

The future of news will be lead by those with the new ideas. I think, for the most part, that traditional media has resisted real innovation. It’s why newspaper is dying and why television is struggling.

It will take a fresh perspective and new ideas.

I think many of the traditional news courses of the big broadcast journalism schools may fall by the wayside. More time must be spent on the multimedia aspect of the job. It’s excelling on all platforms.

However, the news will still be driven by content. Compelling, urgent and relevant content. Most recent grads have little understanding of what it takes to develop sources and story ideas. It doesn’t matter what platform you use if the content you deliver is boring.

#6 Jen Reeves on 05.04.09 at 3:03 pm

Thanks Brad… Our thinking is so similar. It’s odd how we met.

I would love to figure out ways to really teach community building skills from early on in a student’s journalism school experience… That faculty would support.

#7 Jen Reeves on 05.04.09 at 7:06 pm

Megan – thanks so much for your thoughts… Your words are so similar to RJI Fellow Mike Fancher. He’s focused on the question of how we can take the Journalist’s Creed into the future of journalism. His conclusion: The creed remains important and may be even more important now with the many new ways to tell good stories.

CJ – You’re so right. I’m hoping my focus on what it takes to build community, understand the importance of sources and as always, foster the skill of gathering story ideas.

#8 Talking about the future — Jen Reeves - New Media Mind on 05.13.09 at 11:22 am

[…] long ago, I posted a blog asking the question, “Who is going to lead the future of journalism?” After I posted it and shared the link on Twitter, I was asked to lead an online chat about this […]

#9 Juan Manuel on 05.14.09 at 9:52 am

Hi!

I am Juan Manuel, a Spanish financial journalist and PhD en Communication. I am about to be named dean of a School of Communications in Spain and I am actually thinking these days about the future of journalism and the schools of journalism. To me, the graduates are actually showing us the way, so they actually act as professors. For the first time ever, in Journalism professors are someway, in several areas, the graduates, whose digital experience gives them a deeper knowledge in Communications in this 2.0 decade.

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