Posts about newsroomasclassroom

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, which he blogs about here.

The newsroom as classroom opens

Bravo to the Oakland Press, which just announced that it is opening a classroom for citizen journalists. Named, with admirable hauteur, The Oakland Press Institute for Citizen Journalism, it is built under the believe that “there are ways for readers to help tell stories better, quicker and more completely.”

That is why we will be offering anyone who is interested — from high school students to retirees — instruction in news writing, videography, basics of reporting for news and sports, and still photography.

For those who complete the instruction, we offer the opportunity to get your work published online or in the print edition. This experience would be especially helpful for high school and college students viewing careers in the communications field. In addition, others can work toward becoming members of our freelance stable of journalists.

Beautiful. The best part is that the instruction will be done by members of the paper’s staff. Now I know some bloggers might say, “We don’t need your instruction, press people, you need ours.” And the second half of that is true – everyone in this classroom can learn. But so long as the instruction is offered in the spirit of generosity – “Here’s what we know and how we ply our trade and we will no longer keep it secret as a priesthood but will share it openly” – then everyone wins. The public can learn those tricks of their trade. The journalists build a new relationship of mutual trust with the public. The news organization expands journalism into the community – as the Oakland Press’ announcement eloquenty argues in what amounts to a white paper on the virtues of citizen journalism.

I started arguing for the idea of the newsroom as classroom in 2005 and said this transformation will do more than bring in more news; it will change the very nature of a newspaper:

Once again, Hugh McLeod said it better than I just did: We need to think as “a point on the map where wonderful people cluster together to do wonderful things.” How do we help people gather to share what they know and need to know? How do we turn newspapers into newsplaces?

So the education and the relationship goes well past the classroom, of course. A great editor educates every day. A great reporter learns every day. Educators learn from the students; so journalists will no doubt learn how to shoot better Flip videos or tag Flickr photos from members of the public. And the newsroom necessarily tears down its walls and opens up to the community, becomes part of the community. I mean that figuratively and literally: the newsroom as cafe, the distributed newsroom everywhere in town.

This new relationship, I believe, will be the foundation of a new business model for news. For as the paper can no longer afford the cash and risk to own everything and do everything and is it builds this new relationship of trust with the public, it will have to see the opportunity in helping the public, its partners, build their own value and businesses together. This, I hope, is the first seed of the network.

I also believe that journalism schools must offer to help and must see that they have a role and responsibility to train not just the professionals but anyone. I have been applying for grants to start a program to help newsrooms – closed cultures that they have been – to learn how to teach and to create curricula to help. My argument has been that programs to teach citizens separately don’t scale and don’t reform the relationship between journalists and the public. Among the things that could be taught: your right to access to public documents, meetings, and official information; how to research and verify information; journalistic ethics (a discussion!), corrections (also a discussion!); how to record public meetings as podcasts; how to shoot better photos and video; how to sell ads to support blogs and reporting…. From my grant proposal:

The goal is both to improve the quality of citizen journalism and to establish a new and collaborative relationship of respect between professionals and amateurs, opening up the newsroom and its culture and expanding the reach of journalism in the community. Through this program, these news organizations – and others who will watch their progress – will learn and prove the business case for harnessing citizen effort and knowledge. The project will lead to new work in networked journalism….”

I only wish I could attend the inaugural class of The Oakland Press Institute for Citizen Journalism. (Will you webcast it, teacher?)

[via Jay Rosen]