A British paper and university are teaming up to create a joint newsroom and degree in multimedia journalism. This isn’t quite what I suggested when I said that newsrooms should become classrooms, but it’s a fascinating step. [via Greenslade]
Posts about jschool
The Independent ponders the value of media studies v. journalism studies and reports that over there, they saw a 25.9 percent increase in secondary students taking certification exams in media, film, or TV this year over last and a 250 percent increase in the number taking media studies at A level in the last decade. Change is enticing.
Nick Lemann responds to my Comment is Free post at the Guardian about the cutbacks at CJRDaily.org and his New Yorker essay. I’m glad he is joining the conversation he sparked. He mostly sticks to explaining his actions at the school. We do agree, as he says at the start, that “the internet is potentially the greatest reporting medium ever invented.” I’d like to explore other avenues of agreement. One clarification. Lemann says:
I think Jarvis and I also disagree about whether our school should teach students the substance of complicated subjects that they will write about as journalists – I strongly believe we should, because that is one of the most fundamental ways in which journalism can help inform citizens and thus strengthen democracy, but if I am reading Jarvis correctly he believes we should not because it will “create a greater gap between pro and am”.
No, I do believe that more education in the subjects reporters are likely to cover is important (and CUNY is offering such concentrations to our students, I should add). One cannot possibly argue that more education and knowledge is a bad thing. But no matter how hard and how much a journalism student studies, there will always be someone out there who knows much more. Journalists have fancied themselves experts — they often use the word now — and that’s just not the case, not usually. Reporters are facile at picking up subjects. Reporters should strive to be come more expert in the beats they cover. But, as I’m sure Lemann and I would agree, they do their best work when they go out and report, finding the knowledge of experts — who, thanks to the internet, can now share their knowledge on their own, albeit as amateur journalists. I do think is our job to narrow the gap between pro and am, between journalist and public, to do more together. But less education is not the path to do that. In fact, educating more people is the way to do it, I think.
He also complains that I don’t quote from his New Yorker essay in my post. True. That’s why I linked to it; that is our ethic of the link. And besides, I’d quoted from it plenty here. So I will link again to his Comment is Free post and I look forward to the continuing conversation.
Coffee’s on me, Dean.
: LATER: Over at Unpacking my Library, Chris Anderson, a Columbia Ph.D student also speculates on the meaning of it all and focuses on the notion of expertise:
So, is all this focus on a “new expertise” inherently conservative? Not necessarily, although, at first blush, it certainly is an attempt by a threatened profession to maintain its knowledge-boundary, which has conservative connotations. But as NewAssignment.net and other “networked” journalism projects have shown us, its possible to combine the expertise of the individual and the expertise of the group, at least in theory. The real question, in my mind, is how Columbia’s new MA students are being taught to regard “the expertise of the network.” Are they being taught that they, the “real experts” are a special caste, or, rather, are they learning that there exists such a thing as networked knowledge? These are empirical questions, and I hope to investigate some of them in the years ahead.
I like that: the expertise of the network.
I’m fascinated to see journalism schools mirroring the strategic debate going on in the journalism business — as well they should.
Columbia’s J-school seems to be establishing itself as the classicist, the sanctuary whose ivied castle walls guard journalism as journalism has been done. I suspect that’s an unfair summary but here’s the evidence: We see its dean, Nick Lemann, issuing his papal bull in The New Yorker setting up a separation between professional and amateur and protecting the professional. Next we see Lemann favoring print over online with his decision this week to cut CJRDaily.org and to invest instead in a direct-mail campaign to try to sell subscriptions to the print Columbia Journalism Review.
I said I thought that was a mistake. If anyone should be trying to learn how to successfully and creatively take a print brand and product online, shouldn’t it be a journalism school? Journalism Prof. Leonard Witt quotes fellow journalism Prof. Phil Meyer saying the Poynter Institute’s acquisition of Romenesko was the smartest thing they could have done, bringing attention, traffic, and gratitude to the group. Wasn’t CJRDaily potentially Columbia’s Romenesko? Couldn’t it have been the base to bring together the growing interest in and content about media and journalism online? Couldn’t CJRDaily have been the academic rendition of HuffingtonPost’s Eat the Press? Another journalism prof. weighed in at The Times:
Jay Rosen, a blogger and journalism professor at New York University, said the move was a “strategic error” and that the review should drop its print version to reduce costs and go entirely online. “I’m sure their current subscribers want it in print, but you have to look at your potential subscribers,” he said. “Since the profession is going toward the Web, in the long run, that’s the smarter move.”
Now I suppose it is a defensible position to be journalism’s classicist, for some in the trade do believe their classical values and standards are being threatened. Personally, I see no such threat; I see opportunity to expand journalism and update the standards, and I see the public helping to enforce them. Even so, there are no doubt plenty of students who want classical journalism and there are places that will hire those students, considering Columbia’s standing in the pantheon of J-schools. Yet after Columbia went through some considerable tsuris to reinvent the journalism program, I wonder whether this is where they wanted to end up. I’m told that Columbia is going through a rebranding. I’m eager to to see how it positions itself not just among journalism schools but in the industry.
Now is so happens that the Columbia Journalism Review has a profile in the current issue of the new dean of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism (well, that’s what they called it when I was there; now they’re calling it a school of journalism and integrated marketing communications). John Lavine took an iron grip on the school to remake it and “blow up” the curriculum. See their radically rebranded home page. It appears that Lavine plans to turn it into the institution that will force journalism and media to reexamine their responsiveness to the audience.
I’m not sure what the combination of journalism and advertising in one school does to meet this end, other than to confuse students and the world (which was certainly the case when I went there). Lavine has to try to explain that away:
At the edges, the integrated marketing faculty will be selling things, and that is anathema, and should be, to the journalist. At the edges, the journalist will say things that are enormously unpopular and that’s anathema to the marketer. But in the center the journalist must, when trying to build or deepen an audience, know how to market. And, in the center, the marketer who’s helping the journalist must know more about messages and storytelling to help market the media.
What I believe is right about that is that journalism must learn to listen to the public it serves and that journalists must understand the business so they can support their journalism. And though we hate to admit it, the truth is that journalism has been marketing for years: What is a lede, a headline, a front page, and a cover but a means to market news? Lavine has been helping the business try to learn these lessons with Medill’s Readership Institute and its Media Management Center (with whom I worked on the hyperlocal citizens’ media project GoSkokie). He preaches that journalism needs “revolution, not evolution.” Amen to that.
So there we see two radically different views of how to prepare journalists for the future of their business.
I will hasten to add that I don’t know a thing about the rest of the landscape of J-schools. I don’t even start working at one — at CUNY’s new Graduate School of Journalism — until later this month. But I see examples of different views here and there, some representing just individuals. Berkeley‘s J-school has been web-wise for sometime and has also produced good journalism and a new forum for it with PBS’ Frontline. The aforementioned Leonard Witt has been a leader in public journalism for years. The University of Maryland’s J-school provided a home for Jan Schafer and J-lab, which tries to support and award innovative news projects. Then, of course, there’s my goomba Jay Rosen’s NewAssignment.net, which tries to find new ways to support journalism. And I put my personal stake in the ground here, arguing that we need to find the ways to make journalism more collaborative and less dependent upon media and that we must redefine the roles of journalists.
So as much as I don’t understand where Columbia’s Lemann is coming from and where he’s going, I’ll say he certainly reflects one school of thought in the journalism biz. It’s just not my school.
: Here‘s Business Week’s Bruce Nussbaum on the Columbia move.
And here’s David Hirschman in Editor & Publisher, which itself cut back its print life to push online.
: LATER: Here‘s John Robinson, editor of the Greensboro News & Record:
I appreciate CJR boss, Nicholas Lemann’s predicament and decision. We, and most newspapers, face the same issues. They are monumental, requiring gutsy vision and the ability to make tough choices. But I can’t imagine responding favorably to a subscription solicitation for a monthly publication as it is designed today. And I doubt many of my colleagues would either.
I wonder about the role one of the leading journalism schools could play in helping us ink-on-paper wretches better understand and grow into the future (and the present, for that matter). This ain’t it.
Columbia J-school Dean Nick Lemann cut the staff of the CJRDaily.org to invest more in selling subscriptions to the stale print magazine. How’s that for two steps backward with none forward? I’d have killed the magazine; converted to online with no cost for printing, distribution, and subscription sales; taken advertising online; invited free content from the public; invited contributions; and rolled the dice on the future, not the past. CJR online’s ME, Steve Lovelady, and AME, Bryan Keefer, both quit rather than oversee the shrinkage of the online property, and Lovelady said:
It’s a fundamental policy dispute about the allocation of resources. Nick has decided to spend the money on a direct-mail campaign for the magazine, in hopes of raising subscription revenue. To me, that sounds like something out of the 19th century. He’s taking the one, fresh, smart thing he has and gutting it.
By the way, I remain eager for Lemann to join in the conversation his New Yorker piece sparked. I’ve received emails promising to respond soon. When I hear, I’ll pass it on.
Rebecca MacKinnon writes her sharp response to Columbia J-school’s Nicholas Lemann’s papal bull, arguing that this seems to be a continuation of the dean’s in-print debate with Hugh Hewitt over journalistic objectivity. Refusing to be transparent about his own views, Rebecca says,…
… leaves him and much of the journalistic profession open to all kinds of accusations of hidden political bias and dishonesty. Which in turn leads to a call from the more angry corners of the blogosphere for a reformation. This loss of public faith in American journalism’s claim to objectivity – and the question of what should be done about it – is the real story in my view. If people don’t trust you, it doesn’t matter how impeccable your reporting is, does it? That’s what’s happening today – the good work of many excellent journalists is being unfairly dismissed as biased by many Americans because of this loss of trust. What should journalism as a profession do about it?
: Missed it the first time around: Here is Hewitt on Lemann’s piece:
He is indeed “wedded” to the idea that old media cannot be faulted for its relentless agenda journalism. He is amiable about his rejection of the obvious critiques, but no more stubborn defender of the imperial press and its rights –both real and imagined– can be found.
And here‘s Hugh again, responding to Rebecca.
: Jay Rosen writes his response today.
: By the way, I emailed Lemann and invited him into the conversation, via comments or email that I’ll post. He said he was on deadline. I hope he does join in.
At the end of my response to Columbia J-school Dean Nicholas Lemann’s drawing of a line in the sand between professional journalists and bloggers, below, I challenged him to tell how he proposes to meet his proper desire to bring more reporters (I would say, instead, reporting) to citizens’ journalism. Well, I should pick up my own challenge. So here are some of my notions. As I embark myself on teaching journalism at CUNY this fall, note well that I haven’t even started yet and so I am sure to be wrong in countless ways. Note also that I don’t speak for the school here. These are simply notes on how I hope to learn and teach, study and explore some of the new possibilities for journalism.
First, journalism will become more collaborative — because it can, thanks to new tools; because it must, thanks to new business realities; and because it should, to build a new and respectful relationship with the public. So our challenge is to find the ways to help this happen.
To begin, I believe we have a cultural challenge to break down the walls in the newsroom and classroom. I’ve said before that as a small act, which may just be symbolic (though I hope it’s more), I plan to webcast my classes not to teach the world but so the world teaches us. I’ve also argued that newsrooms should become classrooms where the public teaches the journalists and each other and the journalists share the skills of their trade with the growing world of amateur journalists. I want the sources for stories we write to come to class and judge our work and teach us because — cue Dan Gillmor — they know more. I want to find projects that bring together professional and amateur journalists to report together in acts of networked journalism.
I am assuming that the classroom is a good place to experiment with collaboration and learn what can work. But I also think a school can be a meeting ground to bring together the pros and the ams to also discover their shared goals and meet each others’ needs. The challenge to all — journalists, citizens, educators — is not to protect against the shrinkage of a changing industry but to find the ways to expand the scope and work and quality of journalism, taking advantage of the many new opportunities before us.
Second, journalism will no longer be defined by its medium. It will be unbundled, in Terry Heaton’s words — and so journalists must learn how to tell stories and deliver information in any of many ways.
Thanks to the incredibly easy means of creating media today, there’ll be no more need for priesthoods of the tools. Yes, the tools will be taught (after my son teaches them to me) but as Rich Gordon emphasizes, the one sure thing is that they will change. We need to realize that the ease of creation pays a huge dividend: It means we can put less effort and resource into production and more into reporting.
Thanks to all the new means to gather and deliver from and to anywhere, this also means that the process of news must change — not just extending deadlines around the clock but also allowing reporting to become open: the story is never done and can always be better.
So this is about much more than just deciding whether you are a print, broadcast, or online person; those are soon-to-be meaningless lines and possibly career dead ends. This is about changing the essential architecture of news. But note well that I am not saying one medium will replace another (another common strawman in this discussion). See this week’s Pew study, which argues that the internet is a supplement to other media, though I’d put that slightly differently. What is a supplement to what depends on which medium gives you the most relevant news for your attention, I think. Still, online recognizes that there are other media people will still use and it also complements them. I think that newspapers never respected the role that TV and radio played. But online has to respect the role that newspapers and broadcast will always play. So it’s not about competition among media.
Third, journalists must take some responsibility for the business of news. Only a few years ago, this would have been heresy punishable by banishment to PR and in some quarters, it still will be. But today, we have to recognize that journalism will no longer be subsidized by closed monopolies and that the business itself — and the call on the public’s attention — is now highly competitive. There will be no magic bullet to save newsrooms. Newsrooms will change and those that don’t are the ones that are doomed. And there will be many business models. This is why I applaud NewAssignment.net as one model and why I keep flogging the idea of an open-source ad network for citizens’ media and why I am so heartened to see people like Deb Galant begin to succeed and Rafat Ali hiring reporters.
Fourth, journalists must redefine their roles and relationships as more than reporters, editors, and producers — which, yes, they must still be — but also…. Moderators. Entrepreneurs. Teachers. Students. Helpers. Enablers. Networkers. Filters. Partners. Community members. Citizens. I think in some ways this is the most exciting quest of them all.
The greatest benefit that can come out of all this is that we rediscover the essence of journalism and its standards. In most of the discussions of this, we hear about standards in a bundle — without enough discussion of the standards themselves — and they tend to be thrown around as the badges of professionals. But when we extend the definition of journalism and open the doors to all who commit acts of journalism, then the discussion of standards no longer becomes one of ‘we have them and you don’t’ (aimed at the amateurs) or ‘you think you have them but you’re failing at them’ (aimed at the professionals). Standards can stop being cudgels and start being what they should be: goals. But I do not think we should assume that the standards of journalism are signed, sealed, and delivered. As more people gather and share news in more ways and as the roles of journalist, citizen, newsmaker, and advocate mesh and sometimes merge and often conflict, I agree with those who fret about standards. I b elieve it becomes more important than ever to restate and reexamine them and be open to new standards that fit some of our new roles, standards like transparency and generosity.
I will — I’d better — change and adapt these views with every class and every discussion. But that’s my starting point.