The Latin American journalism blog, Clasesdeperiodismo.com, recently asked me for my views on journalism education and more.
The e-mail interview is available on the site in Spanish. But if you don’t speak Spanish or are not sure Google Translate will be able to figure out what I mean, here’s the English version:
Q: What do you think about the education of today’s journalists?
A: Journalism education is in a process of transformation, reflecting the changes taking place in journalism. The way journalism is been taught is evolving, though there are two distinct approaches. The first assumes that journalism is much the same as always, except that it has become more technologised. This approach is evident in schools that add on multimedia classes to an established curriculum.
The other approach is based on the premise that media environment is significantly different today due to the development and adoption of networked, digital technologies, and the new practices and social arrangements enabled by these technologies. For journalism schools, it means acknowledging that the profession is undergoing a period of fundamental change as a result of people imagining and exploring new ways of doing things and new ways of being. It is then not just as simple as adding multimedia to an established curriculum, but rethinking the curriculum.
The role of journalism education is to prepare students for the journalism of tomorrow, not just the newsrooms of today.
Q: Do you encourage journalism students to blog?
A: We have a specific blogging assignment in the first year core journalism programme at UBC. We discuss blogging in the context of developing a student’s professional identity and personal brand. For the assignments, students have to maintain a blog on an area of expertise, providing analysis and commentary in an informal and conversational style, interacting with readers. Blogging helps students develop their own voice as a journalist, as well as establishing their specialist knowledge in a given area.
Q: What can do veteran journalists in order to create their personal brand on Internet?
A: Every journalist should aim to own their name online. The first step is to buy your name as a web address and set up a professional website/blog. But it also means establishing a suitable presence on other platforms, such as Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter. Veteran journalists can also build their brand by engaging with stories on other sites, leaving informed comments that add to the conversation. Being involved in social media should not be seen as an extra activity, but as a core activity of one’s journalism.
Q: New media, such as Twitter and social networks, can help us do better journalism? Do journalists take advantage of their full potential?
A: Twitter and social networks enable journalists to engage and connect with audiences. Journalists need to understand that they need to go to the places where the audiences are, rather than expecting them to come to you. For example, enabling others to embed your video content extends the distribution and reach of your work.
Twitter provides a way for journalists to distribute content. But it is far more than a broadcast medium. To take advantage of Twitter, journalists need to listen to what others are saying on the network and engage in conversations.
I have written of Twitter as ambient journalism. What I mean by this is that acts of journalism are taking place on Twitter all the time. The challenge for a journalist is the high noise to signal ratio on Twitter – clearly not all tweets are journalism, but the volume and speed of messages makes it hard for an individual journalist to sift through the content and identify valuable content.
Q: In 2009, you published a study of Twitter and journalism, what factors are different since then?
A: Since my paper on ambient journalism, we are seeing more sophisticated tools and techniques emerging to help us navigate the world of Twitter – from Twitter lists to services like Twitter Analyzer that help to explore the social graph of a Twitter user.
Q: Finally, do you think it’s important to news organization to create their own social networks? For example, what do you think of Eskup?
A: An inhouse social network can be of value to a news organization in providing demographic and other information about its readers. It can be a way of tying readers more closely to a brand at a time when many users are promiscuous in their news habits. I am not familiar with Eskup but The Telegraph in the UK has a similar initiative. It it not a social network as such, but incorporates elements of social networking to enable like-minded readers to connect to each other and participate in discussions. At the same time, news organisations need to tap into existing social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. Some users will not want to set up an additional account with a news outlet.