Digital journalism school

Via E-Media Tidbits, I read Amy Gahran’s opinions about how to overhaul journalism schools.

I’ve heard from some journalism educators that the kind of preparation I’ve proposed is far beyond what most existing j-schools could offer. I understand that.

Really, I think what may be needed is to completely re-envision and rebuild j-school with today’s realities and tomorrow’s likelihoods in mind.

She lists points for both the undergraduate and graduate level.

As I read it, it nagged me that….didn’t I write about this before? I had! Back at Fullerton, in my last semester, I wrote a paper for Independent Study, detailing how I thought Fullerton and the Daily Titan could “converge.” Incidentally, I hate that word — I connotes that there are two different operations that need to be merged, when in my opinion, online news and traditional news are really not all that different, just the delivery is different.

Anyway, here is the last graf from my paper (written back in 2002!):

One of the biggest obstacles that the communications department of CSUF faces in converging its program is the sheer fact that it is a commuter school. Just to truly succeed at the Daily Titan, a long-term commitment is required to learn how to write, edit, and design. For myself, this took two years. To learn to design a Web page (not even a Web site) and how to speak on camera, shoot footage, edit that footage and put it on the web is a whole other story.

Before I came to CSUF, I had already built a comprehensive Web site (200+ pages by the time I transferred) and worked at a dot-com maintaining a large company Web site. This took two years of my own free time and effort.

To truly prepare students for convergence, they must start early. An ideal situation would start with a class of maybe 50 freshmen, learning the ins and outs of the daily newspaper. Their second year would continue them on the daily production of the newspaper, as well as learning how to shoot and edit video for broadcast purposes. Their third year would find them combining their first two years, as well learning the nuances of Web sites and how to organize and build one. Their fourth and last year would find these students in a student newsroom rivaling most professional newsrooms.

This isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. However, the effort to converge print, broadcast and new media cannot throw students unawares into concepts they were just introduced to.

One step that could be taken to converge the Daily Titan newsroom specifically would be to produce the Web site, the Daily Titan Inter@ctive on a daily basis, alongside the production of the newspaper.

Another step would be to provide the newsroom with the necessary software and hardware for these students to familiarize themselves with. Students who have no access to Dreamweaver will never be able to play with it. Without access to a digital video camera and digital editing software, play footage can’t be taken and experimented with. The best way for students to learn these concepts and applications would be to have them actually use it.

Without access to it, they cannot use it.

It seems to me that what I wrote back in 2002 is not far from what Amy Gahran was talking about. Even though I only use Dreamweaver now for FTP, I would agree with her that learning to use a Content Management System like WordPress, or even a passing knowledge of Blogger, will go a long way in helping journalists make the transition online.

By the way, it freaks me out that I still have papers and notes as far back as 2002, even 1999. I even still have my charts comparing used book prices! Man, I was OCD even then. But that’s a whole other blog post.