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.