Back to the future

Still catching up on my RSS reading, I see this disturbing report from the journalism educators’ conference on the state of new media art in j-school and college papers. You’d think that they’d be way ahead of the industry, right? The young people live and breath this stuff, or so we’re told; soon we won’t even need to train them in multimedia because they’ll come in growing up omnimedia. Not so fast:

About 91 percent of college newspapers had online presences in 2007, but the percentages are much lower for other forms of college media — 36.3 percent for radio stations, 20.9 percent for television stations, 18.1 percent for magazines and 6 percent for yearbooks. There were, however, “appreciable gains” in the proportion of college media outlets using multimedia technologies in 2007 compared to 2006: For instance, in 2006, 20.9 percent used podcasts, versus 38.4 percent in 2007. The use of Weblogs increased from 19.8 to 35.8 percent, RSS feeds from 23.5 to 35.1 percent, streaming video from 16.6 to 30.5 percent, embedded video (including YouTube) from 9.6 to 42.4 percent and comments features from 39.6 to 57 percent.

It’s good news that only a third of college papers use blogs and RSS? Ouch. This isn’t just about being cool. It’s about jobs:

Meanwhile, even the smallest commercial newspapers, with 10,000 readers or fewer, are looking for reporting candidates with experience writing for the Web and uploading stories to the Internet, according to a survey of newspaper managing editors conducted by Wendelken and Toni B. Mehling of James Madison University. Of nine respondents in the “large daily newspaper” category (those with a circulation of 44,000 and above), eight required reporters to have skills in capturing audio while four required audio editing skills. Five required reporters to have skills in capturing video, while one required video editing expertise. Major newspapers, said Wendelken, “are looking at reporters to do these things from the start.”

When discussing barriers to new media education, panelists and audience members cited costs (although Murley stressed that many of the technologies can be used fairly cheaply), in addition to resistance from some faculty who lack multimedia skills themselves or otherwise don’t see the need to instruct undergraduates in the emerging platforms. But they also cited resistance from journalism students themselves.

“A lot of college students select their medium in high school. When they come onto campus, they’re already a TV person or a radio person or a newspaper person,” said Wendelken.

“I’m a print journalist,” he continued, imitating the attitude of many aspiring journalists. “Why do I need to learn video?”

There is no such thing as a print journalist anymore. There are journalists who now can work in any medium for any media company.

  • http://www.jayfallon.net Jay Fallon

    “We don’t face the same problems economically that the industry is facing.”

    An easy excuse when one is living a sheltered, academic life with an endless queue of paying customers and the benefits of an easy work schedule and tenure. It’s up to the students themselves to break out from the norm and discover new mediums in which they can (will have to) work and perfect their craft. Those who can adapt will survive, those who cannot will sell real estate.

  • Don

    Gilder argues that text works better than images.

    Scripture declares that in the beginning was the word. There was no mention of the image. Today in information technology, the word still widely prevails. In 1992, books, newspapers, and magazines generated some $73 billion in sales, compared to television revenues of $57 billion.

    In general, images are valuable as an enhancement to words. As Robert Lucky of Bellcore has pointed out, images are not in themselves usually an efficient mode of communication. In Silicon Dreams, just released in paperback in a new edition, Lucky writes that after an evening of television, “we sink into bed, bloated with pictorial bits, starved for information.”

    People who gush that a picture is worth 1,000 words usually fail to point out that it may well take a million computer “words” to send or store it. In a multimedia encyclopedia, such as Microsoft’s Encarta, some 10,000 images take up 90 percent of the bits, but supply perhaps a hundredth of the information. With the pictures alone the encyclopedia is nearly worthless; with the words alone, you still have a valuable encyclopedia. Most of the work and the worth are in the words. Supremely the masters of words, newspapers can add cosmetic pictures, sounds, and video clips far more easily than TVs or game machines can add reporting depth, expertise, research, and cogent opinion.

    More profoundly, the domonetics of the new technologies strongly favors text-based communications. Video is most effective in conveying shocks and sensations and appealing to prurient interests of large miscellaneous audiences. Images easily excel in blasting through to the glandular substrates of human community; nothing like a body naked or bloody or both to arrest the eye and forestall the zapper.

    Allow me to mod your “There is no such thing as a print journalist anymore.” meme into “There is no such thing as print literacy anymore.” IMHO literacy evolved from a simple mostly linear experience of s l o w l y reading printed material into a digital nonlinear experience.

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