Teaching journalists

Three neat new efforts to teach journalists the tools, tricks, and gizmos of new media:

In a McCormick Foundation-funded program, West Virginia University journalism students are making multimedia stories to be run on papers’ sites throughout the state. That alone is a good idea and I’ll argue that we need to harness the brute reporting power of journalism students everywhere to help create journalism for papers and the public. But the WVU program goes the next step: Once the students have learned the tools and made stories with them, they turn around and teach the pros how to use them. Great idea!

“About half at least, maybe a little more, of the weekly newspapers around the state have Web sites, but in a lot of cases they’re pretty rudimentary sites — they just have basically what’s in the print edition,” [Associate Dean John] Temple said.

While readers get their news increasingly from the Internet, small rural newsrooms don’t always have the time or money to invest in their Web sites.

“So what we’re trying to do is give them some ways of improving the editorial content on their Web sites without expending a great deal of time in training or in the execution,” Temple said.

Chris Stadelman, editor and publisher of the Parsons Advocate, was deciding in late December exactly what he wants his paper to get from the program.

“John (Temple) basically sent us a menu of different training and software applications, and we’re trying to figure out which ones we’re going to pursue,” Stadelman said. “They are certainly going to help us with video, and we may look at some blogging.”

Producing multimedia stories in the fall semester was energizing for McMillion, a news-editorial major from Charleston and one of the six seniors involved.

“Writing is my passion, but I’m real excited to be able to graduate in May with videography and photography skills and leave the school with a knowledge of multimedia,” she said.

“I never thought that I would learn so much in such a short amount of time — and now I catch myself teaching others,” she added.

Next step: I hope the newsroom journalists can’t catch themselves from teaching others in the community to expand the network of journalism locally: the newsroom as classroom.

Second effort: Jack Lail tells us about NewsTechZilla, where a couple of journalists explain how to use tools and fix problems in new media. One of them told Lail:

So it made sense for us to find a way to mesh together a discussion of journalism and some of the technical issues specific to journalists (real writers) who are moving online, many of them out on their own.

Note that: Many of the journalists will be the formerly employed now starting to work independently.

Third effort: A reporter experienced in computer-aided reporting is spending a year teaching fellow newsroom folks computer programming. I wouldn’t suggest that everyone needs to know how to program (and it takes much less time to teach web 2.0 tools) but the more that more people know in newsrooms about technology, the better.

I’ve argued for a few years now that news organizations should be training everyone – absolutely everyone – in the simple tools and gizmos of new media, for that would show journalists the possibilities and demystify technology (I used to complain that old-media journalists acted like a priesthood but the sad truth is that new media folks became their own priesthood in newsrooms, holding onto their knowledge). Journalists teaching journalists and journalism students teaching journalists are both great ideas but it’s unfortunate they’re filling a vacuum left by journalism managers (and educators).

: LATER: See also Gina Chen’s blog from a journalist helping journalists with blogs, Twitter, etc. (Here are her 10 tips for blogging and here is my addition in the comments.)

: And in the comments, Howard Owens adds WiredJournalists.com, which he blogs about here.