Archive for the ‘Journalism education’ Category

This continues my series on advice for a new adjunct journalism professor. This guest post is by Dr. Kathleen Woodruff Wickham, associate professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi (more about her at the end):

Kathleen Woodruff Wickham

Kathleen Woodruff Wickham

The previous posts had many wonderful suggestions. I will try not to repeat them. Experience tells me that many new adjuncts and instructors moving from the profession to academia do not understand the academic culture, nor grasp the necessities for what appear to be arcane practices. They also frequently come in deciding to run their classroom like a newsroom. You have to remember that if you are teaching lower-division classes you are teaching 18- and 19- year olds, not adults who are professionals. These are professionals-in-training.

For example, in a lower-division course don’t say, “You are expected to follow AP guidelines. Here is the book.”

Rather, hold them accountable for certain sections (titles, ages, addresses).  In our entry-level writing course, I would prepare a hand-out of the basics and start the penalty off at 1 point, increasing each week by a point to a maximum of 10. (more…)

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A professional journalist’s experience is both essential and dangerous when teaching journalism.

Whether you’re hired as a full-time professor or as an adjunct, your career has given you countless lessons and insights you can share with students. And it’s given you countless irrelevant stories you can bore students with. And the relevance of your lessons is perishable in a swiftly changing marketplace.

This is my fourth post offering advice to Jenn Lord Paluzzi, a Digital First colleague who was hired as an adjunct professor and asked for advice for a first-time journalism professor. I blogged earlier this week about the different ways that people learn and about the types of content you should include in a course. A post by Curt Chandler discussed the importance of examples and of learning how your students use media. I’ll be publishing other posts next week from Kathleen Woodruff Wickham about learning about academia and Pam Fine about grading.

Let’s focus here on how to help students benefit from your experience in the field (which probably is a big reason, if not the sole reason, you got the teaching job). You want to share enough of your experience to give your teaching authority without making the class all about you. (more…)

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Most journalism courses should cover a wide range of content, from terminology to skills to strategy.

This post continues my response to a colleague who asked for advice for her first gig teaching journalism as an adjunct faculty member. I had emailed Jenn Lord Paluzzi asking if I could use her name in answering the question and hadn’t heard back from her when I posted yesterday, so she was unidentified in yesterday’s post, which was about the different ways that you teach.

Jenn quickly claimed the question, though:

Continuing the discussion, I can think of at least seven levels on which you need to teach the content of most courses: (more…)

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Students learn journalism best if you teach them several different ways.

A colleague who’s starting her first journalism classes as an adjunct professor asked, “Any advice for the first-time professor?” I’ll answer here and in at least a couple more posts over the next week or so.

Update: I originally posted this before hearing back from the colleague about whether it was OK to use her name (since she asked the question in a private email). She quickly identified herself after I posted:

I’m teaching my 10th college class now and have learned a few things about teaching in the classroom (and in hundreds of workshops and seminars for professional journalists). But I recognize that many friends in journalism schools have far more classroom experience than I do. So I invite them (you, if you’re teaching journalism) to weigh in with some advice, too. Much of this applies as well to training your professional colleagues. For my colleague and other new journalism professors (and perhaps for veterans, who should always be learning, too).

I’ll start by addressing the wide variety of ways that students learn and how I gear my lessons and assignments to teach students in a multitude of ways. I believe students learn in at least these ways (several of which overlap): (more…)

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Journalism students today should learn some computer code. More important, they should get a glimpse of the value for themselves and their newsrooms of greater computer literacy.

A post on The Atlantic yesterday by global editor Olga Khazan unleashed a lengthy and vigorous discussion yesterday on Twitter about the value — or lack of value — of requiring students to learn computer programming. I considered — and briefly started — curating the discussion, but it was a heavy volume and I was enjoying a day off. Even so, I retweeted a sampling of the discussion. Check my Twitter feed for yesterday, and you’ll get a taste, if you missed it. Mindy McAdams Storified a bunch of the discussion (though she missed a couple late-night threads I was involved in).

I won’t try to summarize Khazan’s argument here, except to say that she dismissed the value of coding for most journalists:

If you want to be a reporter, learning code will not help. It will only waste time that you should have been using to write freelance articles or do internships—the real factors that lead to these increasingly scarce positions.

She couldn’t be more wrong. And I say this as someone who knows little coding. I took a web design class in the 1990s but forgot most of it. I can cut and paste embed codes or other snippets of code and sometimes I can find or fix a problem in the HTML version of a post. But one of the most glaring holes in my skill set is my ignorance of coding. Filling that gap is on my someday list, but my somedays have been too rare and my list too long.

If you’re a journalism student, fill that gap now, even if you want to be a reporter (or whatever you want to be). If you’re on a journalism school curriculum committee, insist that your students fill that gap.

Here are six reasons why J-schools should teach students to code: (more…)

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Journalism isn’t narcissism, as Hamilton Nolan noted correctly in his Gawker headline. But as Nolan elaborated, I heard an old theme that I think has misguided lots of journalists. Journalism also isn’t machinery. Journalism is practiced by humans, and journalists and journalism professors who deny their humanity diminish their journalism.

Nolan found fault with a New York Times piece by Susan Shapiro, an author and journalism professor he dismissed as “teaching a gimmick: the confessional as attention-grabber.”

Shapiro encourages her feature-writing students to “shed vanity and pretension and relive an embarrassing moment that makes them look silly, fearful, fragile or naked.” Nolan counters that journalism students instead need to be taught to write other people’s stories:

Your friends, and neighbors, and community members, and people across town, and across your country, and across the world far and wide are all brimming with stories to tell. Stories of love, and war, and crime, and peril, and redemption. The average inmate at your local jail probably has a far more interesting life story than Susan Shapiro or you or I do, no matter how many of our ex-boyfriends and girlfriends we call for comment. All of the compelling stories you could ever hope to be offered are already freely available. All you have to do is to look outside of yourself, and listen, and write them down.

I believe both journalists are right. Journalists need to tell the important untold stories of their communities. Most journalism should be outward-looking. But personal insight can and often should be part of the process of listening and writing down other people’s stories. (more…)

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I am late in noting here that I had a guest post at Nieman Lab about why and how student media should move swiftly to become digital-first.

I elaborated on the points I made earlier this year about student media after doing some consulting for Texas Christian University and the University of Oregon and after teaching some digital-first workshops for TCU and the University of Texas at Arlington.

I also should note that University of Tampa journalism professor Dan Reimold wrote a detailed response to my Nieman Lab post.

It’s a thoughtful response that Jim Romenesko framed as a debate between Dan and me. After I commented on Dan’s blog, he responded that he “truly loved” my Nieman piece and that we are “pretty much in lock-step.” (more…)

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Texas Christian University’s student media are shifting to a digital-first approach this fall, producing content first and primarily for digital platforms.

I visited TCU’s Schieffer School of Journalism in April, studying their student media operations and recommending sweeping changes. I’m back this week to lead a day of workshops for the students in the unified content team that will feed digital, broadcast and print media.

Links I will be recommending to the students for additional reading: (more…)

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I am pleased to see more student media converting to a digital-first approach. While the digital future is clear for all media, the audience for student media is even more intensely digital focused.

Both to serve their current audiences and to prepare students for success in journalism, student media need a strong digital focus. I am leading two days of digital-first training for the Shorthorn, the student media news staff at the University of Texas-Arlington.

I blogged last spring about my advice that student media need to take a digital-first approach. The Shorthorn was already planning a digital-first conversion for this fall that includes changing from daily to weekly print publication. The University of Oregon and the University of Georgia have made similar changes in print frequency to emphasize their digital-first approach.

My alma mater, Texas Christian University, is continuing the Daily Skiff as a daily newspaper Tuesday through Friday, but it will create content first for digital platforms and is reorganizing student media to focus on digital content first. I will be leading a day of workshops for TCU’s student media Thursday.

Links I will be recommending to the students for additional reading:

How a Digital First approach guides a journalist’s work

Digital First Journalists: What we value

10 ways to think like a Digital First journalist

Leading a Digital First newsroom

How Digital First succeeds at making money

What does community engagement mean?

Engagement editors: an emerging, important job

What does an engagement editor do?

Finding and developing story ideas

We won’t spend a lot of time in these workshops talking about job-hunting, but because these journalists will soon be seeking jobs, I also am sharing some links on branding and job-hunting:

Use digital tools to showcase your career and your work

Confessions (strategies) of a branded journalist (or a journalist with a reputation, if you prefer)

Tips for finding your next job in digital journalism

Job-hunting advice for journalists selling skills in the digital market

Here are slides for today’s and yesterday’s workshops for the Shorthorn:

Here are links I used during the workshops as various examples (I might forget to include a few links, so I invite students to remind me of any you don’t see here that you’d like to check out). I will be adding to these links later, but I wanted to get them posted before today’s workshops:

The Virginia Tech massacre liveblog from the Collegiate Times

Jay Westcott’s time-lapse photo project on a Cowboys-Redskins game and Jay’s How-I-did-it explainer

Visual.ly and Dataviz

Maryjo Webster’s Making maps with Google Fusion tables


Parkersburg tornado map

Last Chance interactive project on Louisiana’s vanishing coastline

Ivan Lajara’s How to make a slideshow with Pinterest with Storify

Celebration outside the White House








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I have recommended digital-first approaches recently to faculty and student media leaders at my alma mater, Texas Christian University, and the University of Oregon.

I am delighted that Emerald Media in Oregon has announced that it will be digital-first next year, stopping Monday-Friday daily newspaper publication in favor of a timely digital news approach and two weekly print magazines. The University of Georgia’s Red and Black shifted to digital first with its move to weekly print production last fall (I played no role there).

TCU will continue publishing the Daily Skiff (I am a former Skiff editor, spring semesters of 1975 and ’76) four days a week, but will produce all content first and primarily for digital platforms. “We are moving from some of the news being produced and distributed first on a digital platform to all of the news being produced digitally with the intent of distributing it first in real-time via a digital platform,” Schieffer School of Journalism Director John Lumpkin told me in an email.

Even where the changes involve cutting the frequency of print production, we should not regard these moves as cutbacks but as moving forward. “This step is critical to expanding news coverage for our audience, in addition to preparing students for the changes in our profession,” John said.

The Schieffer School set the stage for this move by launching a news website, tcu360, that operated largely independently of the Skiff and TCU News Now, the student TV operation. “We made the philosophical decision to go ‘digital first’ in the spring of 2011 by creating tcu360,” John said.

This is the direction student media need to go. Journalism students must prepare to work and compete in the digital news marketplace and journalism schools and student media must do a better job of preparing them. (more…)

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A quick roundup of pieces I don’t have time to break down in detail:

Journalism and education

Ken Doctor

In The newsonomics of  News U, Ken Doctor suggests that news organizations can expand their community news and information role and play a formal role in education in the community:

As the tablet makes mincemeat of the historic differences among newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio, we see another bright line ready to dim: that seeming line between what a news organization and what a college each do.

I’m not going to try to summarize Ken’s piece, but I encourage you to read it. I will respond to one of Ken’s suggestions for the news business: (more…)

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Congratulations to the American University School of Communications on the launch this fall of its new master’s degree program in media entrepreneurship.

The MA/ME program will offer students a master of arts degree starting this fall, with 10 courses presented over 20 months. I will be an adjunct faculty member, scheduled to teach in the final course for the first class of students, spring of 2014. The program is a partnership with the Kogod School of Business, with courses designed and scheduled for working professionals, meeting evenings and on Saturdays.

Congratulations to Amy Eisman and her AU colleagues on the development of this program.


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