What journalism students can learn from blogging

With the start of the new semester, I haven’t had enough time to post to this blog so apologies to all. The first couple of weeks of a new term are always a hectic time.

It is also time for my students to take up blogging as part of the core Integrated Journalism course at the University of British Columbia.

I have written a piece for PBS Mediashift on why I believe that blogging deserves a place on a journalism curriculum.

The blogs are now live and cover a broad range of topics, from Canadian foreign policy to spirituality to Latin American culture.

Teaching someone to blog might sound odd.  My approach is to consider blogs as a delivery system that may or may not contain journalism.

I use newspapers as a comparison. Tabloids such as The Daily Star or The Sun in the UK are very different to The Times or The Guardian.  They are all newspapers, but have distinctly different content.

What makes a blog a “blog” are the social and cultural practices that have developed alongside this new web-based delivery system. In other words, the technology and history of blogs has resulted in certain generic conventions, much like the evolution of print led to a set of conventions.

It means that blogs tend to be structured with the most recent post at the top, they are written in a personal and informal style, they contain links to other sources and offer readers the ability to comment.

Since blogs are still a relatively new media form, its use is still evolving. I advise students to consider the blog format as:

  1. A delivery system for journalistic elements that do not fit within established conventions of a news story
  2. A mechanisms for communicating analysis and commentary to the public in an informal conversational manner
  3. A way of reaching audiences in a personal voice, rather than adopting an abstract voice of authority
  4. A platform to engage in a conversation with audiences through comments and discussion

For this assignment, the student blogs have to have a specific focus, choosing a topic where they can bring their personal knowledge and experience to bear.

The blogs are a platform for critical thinking and reflection by students about issues, rather than a pedestal to pontificate about personal views. The students are encouraged to work on their writing style, to develop their own voice.

And the content is unfiltered.  The students publish live to the web, with faculty members supervising the content post-publication.

As I concluded on my Mediashift post:

Blogs and new media have undoubtedly changed the landscape of journalism. In terms of its form, journalism as a whole has become more conversational, and iterative, as readers seek to contribute to the story, and journalists open more of their processes to public view. Blogging has played a role in this process and warrants a place on the curriculum at journalism schools.

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