Journalism when?

I was in a high-school classroom today, picked up a textbook called Journalism Today, and went looking for all the good stuff about online. Ha! The entirety of the internet was handled in three paragraphs on page 495. Granted, the book didn’t come out until 2001, so it would be asking too much to see much about blogs. But lots of major online news services are celebrating their 10th anniversaries this year (and my first is 11 years old), so there’s no reason the text could not have explored the opportunities and impact of the internet for journalism. Shocking.

I’m also scratching my head wondering why schools still print their papers. Every student is online and if any of them want to continue into journalism, creating a school site would be far better experience. I don’t want to hear how they’re scared of the internet; it’s time to join the new century and not doing so is a disservice to students. (I’m about to try to figure out how to convince my son’s principal of that).

See also Bryan Murley arguing that college papers should be promoting their online execs, as the Chicago Tribune just did.

: LATER: Scott Heiferman adds:

Reminds me… I recently heard Yahoo COO Dan Rosensweig say that in grade school on Long Island, they had lessons on how to properly fold/read your NYT on the train [for you inevitable life commuting to the city]. This was in response to him hearing the staggeringly low numbers of people in their 20s or 30s who read a newspaper (on paper). I also recently heard Nicholas Negroponte say that in the rare times when there’s a PC in a classroom in a developing country, he often sees the kids being taught Microsoft Office. Microsoft Office? As if the power of the technology is in ‘office skills’ vs. access to the world’s information/market/creativity/power/…

  • Keep us posted on how it goes with your son’s principle. One of my big beefs is how out of date (and touch) most K-12 teachers/admins are.

  • mark


    The biggest reason we still print the school newspaper (college level) is those print skills are still being demanded by those doing the hiring. Sure, that’ll go away eventually but until it does, I have to give students both print and online skills, because while online is the future, print is still the present. And the only way to give them the practical layout, design, etc. skill is to print a paper.

  • Yes, exposing high school and college journalism students to online media is important. Vital in fact, or schools are doing a disservice to them. But, print is just as vitally important. Many readers — of all ages, though, skewed older — want newspapers in print.

    I only subscribe to my local Sunday’s edition. That’s because I don’t have time to read print Monday-Saturday. Too busy with work, family, etc. I visit the paper’s site every day to scan the news — local and regional news. Not the national stuff. But, on Sundays, I want to sit down with my paper. Not my computer.

    That’s how the majority of people — not us ‘netizens — want the newspaper.

    It’s easy to get myopic about the field(s) we practice in (i.e., online). But, we have to keep the mass market in perspective.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Ditto to PXLated. K-12 public education is the last white-collar environment in these United States in which there is not a computer to be routinely found on the desk of each adult. Not the administrators, not the teachers. The level of technophobia and Luddism in the public schools is simply breathtaking. It’s been 30 years since the advent of personal computers, but in the schools hereabouts (L.A.) there is generally not even a working telephone in each classroom – a 130-year-old invention – much less a functioning computer or Internet connection. But it’s not as if there has been no technological progress in public education. At least the desks are no longer manufactured with little wells up front to hold bottles of fountain pen ink.

  • Jeff you need to get out more. Since you live in NJ I suggest visiting some schools in Newark or Jersey City. See how many of the kids have access to the internet outside of school.

    Also talk to the administrators and teachers about the availability of recent text books, supplies for the classroom and other matters of a similar nature. The unreported scandal in this country is how underfunded the schools in urban districts are. NJ is in the midst of a continual battle over equitable school funding and it seems no matter what the courts rule the legislature finds a way not to comply.

    Here in NY per capita student costs in a wealthy neighborhood on Long Island can be $16-18,000 per year while poor districts in the state get $8000. This problem never gets solved because school budgets are funded from local real estate taxes and wealthy districts don’t want to see their taxes diverted elsewhere. Going to a state-wide funding scheme would mean the rich schools would get less and thus is a non-starter.

  • Hi Jeff, hope you are doing well. When I edited the school paper at my high school we printed it because that’s what the students wanted. Believe it or not, they wanted to be able to bring it to class and read it under the table, or show their mom “I’m in the paper!” etc.

  • The textbook industry moves incredibly slowly. At the university level, the publishers barely do any editing at all, and most of the editors are very new to the field. It takes at best six months (and usually more like 10-12) to get a book from ms. into print and shipping. Then they charge the kids $40 for a skinny little all black-and-white book with a very ugly and unappealing design. The writing is turgid as well. As you noticed, the content is always out of date.

    It’s probably past time to put all U.S. textbooks online and just charge a subscription fee per pupil. That would be a huge disservice to all the kids whose families cannot afford a computer and Internet at home, of course. So what is the solution?

    One thing is for sure, the textbooks are very expensive. I think the schools could probably buy the kids $600 laptops in place of the five or six textbboks they have to haul around.

  • Jeff, the BBC reports on an experiment in the UK of a south London school where 12 and 13 year olds combine their mobile phones and iPods to make the news as part of a BBC project to engage students with journalism:

    “…students snapped photographs using their mobile phones and combined them with radio reports, which they recorded using an iPod or a traditional microphone. The result was a series of multi-media news reports available to download from the internet.”

    Some of these kids will no doubt become journalists in less than ten years, probably as early as five years. I wonder what kind of media they’ll be working for then.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Robert Feinman is the one who needs to get out more. Even in inner cities, most of the inhabitants have access to cable TV. I don’t know of a cable system anywhere in the U.S. that doesn’t also offer broadband Internet access as a add-on service. That’s where I get mine.

    The truly underreported scandal in America is not “how underfunded the schools in urban districts are” because that doesn’t happen to be true. Per-pupil expenditures nearly everywhere have tripled, even allowing for inflation, over the past generation. The actual scandal is the explosion in unionized, unfireable, unaccountable non-teaching staff positions in major urban school disctricts. Public education is supposedly about educating children. In actual fact, it has increasingly become about employing adults in what often amount to patronage jobs for the Democratic faithful.

    The poor-vs-rich districts thing is a red herring as well. Perhaps statewide leveling of funding is a “non-starter” in Feinman’s neighborhood, but we have had it for years here in California. Guess what? The schools are still an ill-maintained, ill-supplied dysfunctional mess. This is because funding is not the problem. The problem is the hijacking of the public schools as a cash cow by the public employee unions and their legions of Democratic enablers in state legislatures.

    Cash is not the problem. Corruption and incompetence are the problems.

  • sam

    Dick Eagleson hit the nail dead on. It’s not a matter of money, it’s how the money is spent. Here on Long Island, senior administrators, including the superintendent (who are now in jail) looted approx $11 million over a 7 or 8-year period out of budgeted funds. And you know what? They never missed the dough! The scam came crashing down when an alert clerk at a Home Depot store got suspicious about the use of the district credit card at his register. In NYC, for years (not sure if it’s still the case) school custodians had control over how the maintenance funds were spent. Lots of $ were allocated and the schools were falling apart. Hmm, wonder why? The schools are pouring money into special ed, which has grown like Topsy, and the kids are learning to game the system. Ditto on money spent on all the multi-culti nonsense, but in my supposedly excellent school district, they don’t even teach geography as a separate course.

  • Dick and Sam:
    Your remarks illustrate the great divide in the US. On one side are those who are in a perpetual dudgeon over greed, mendacity, low morals or incompetence of the working classes. On the other side are the people in these classes themselves and those who deal with them every day.

    It apparently makes those in the first group feel better to blame the victims and to deny the reality of the “two Americas” that John Edwards likes to point out. If you believe that it is the unions and the administrators that are the problem with poor school districts you are deluded.

    Resentment against those who have managed to bargain for a decent standard of living is a common feeling. Instead of complaining against those who are making a decent living examine why so many other are not. Even white collar middle managers now live in fear of their jobs and health and retirement benefits.

    As to inner city people having access to cable TV (and I guess this means internet access as well) you really don’t get what the lives of the poor are really like. Becoming informed would spoil your simplistic world view so I won’t bother suggesting spending some time learning the facts. Prejudice is just so much easier that having to deal with the complicated issues of the real world.

  • Sue

    “Even in inner cities, most of the inhabitants have access to cable TV. I don’t know of a cable system anywhere in the U.S. that doesn’t also offer broadband Internet access as a add-on service. That’s where I get mine.”

    My broadband is about $50 a month. (I don’t have cable TV, just broadband). Even though I make a good income and don’t have any dependents, that amount is a stretch for me because of high housing and commuting costs. I have often considered shutting it off and just picking up wireless because I can usually get a signal wherever I am.

    I can’t imagine paying that much if I made half as much as I do and had children, as many people do.

  • Dave

    When I’m in my son’s classroom, I feel like I’ve gone weirdly back in time to my own kindergarten in the 1960s…

    Just last week, his principal sent a “send-to-all” email about an “email virus” that was like living in a weird 1997 life rerun, except that he is sending them to us “for our protection…” Eeek!

  • sam

    Mr. Feinman: My wife is a teacher in a good school district, and within the last 10 years we had 4 kids graduate from a neighboring district (also well-regarded). After seeing the follies in our town and hearing her stories from work, I am convinced that the administration is one of the major sources of what ails the schools today, although there is certainly enough that can be laid at the feet of teachers who are capital L lazy and parents who either don’t give a damn about what their kids are doing or who don’t give the teachers support. And don’t give me that “two Americas” crap. 1) Thievery is thievery whether it’s $11 million stolen outright by the senior administrators in Roslyn or the diversion of maintenance funds and supplies by janitors in Brooklyn. 2) Just because you’re poor doesn’t mean you get a pass from being involved in what your kids are doing.
    My wife related an interesting experience she had in her jr. high school a few years ago. On one hand, a Japanese student’s parents told her that they were honored to meet her, their child’s teacher. On the other hand, a kid’s grandmother, his guardian, was ticked off that he had no teachers of his ethnic persuasion. The superficiality of skin tone was more important than the caliber of his teachers, a message that her arrogance and stupidity made quite clear.

  • Sam:
    For some reason you chose to focus on the cases of malfeasance, unfortunately this occurs in every human endeavor. We have seen enough of it recently in military contracting, Enron and even graft in congress. But we hope these are the exceptions not the rule.

    School systems cannot be expected to fix the problems of society. The kids are in school for 1/3 of a day for 1/2 of the year, this leave 5/6 of the time for them to be influenced by their parents and society. Urban school districts pay poorly, are under-equipped and have a hard time attracting qualified teachers. The starting pay in NYC is in the mid 30’s, in many parts of the country it is in the 20K range. NYC has just started offering a housing bonus to teachers who agree to move to the city to teach. In other words the salary is too low to live on unless one wants to commute from distant suburbs.

    Are there bad teachers and administrators? Of course. Is this the root of the problem? No.

  • sam

    R. Feinman: You hit the nail on the head. “School systems cannot be expected to fix the problems of society.” Unfortunately, that’s what many have turned into, with the teaching of basics — math, science, English, history, geography — being given short shrift and/or done with a multi-culti spin that ignores the reality of the world in which we live and the real problems and outside threats facing us.

  • The very idea of journalism “school” makes me laugh.