April 22, 2011

On (Teaching) Web Journalism

The spring semester is winding down, and that means that Ozarks News Journal has reached the end of its first school year in publication. I publish the site for my JRN378 Multimedia Journalism class.

Publishing on the server of the College of Arts & Letters at MSU presented certain difficulties — mostly technical/procedural. As the deadline to get a site running rapidly approached, I made the decision to publish ONJ myself (including paying for it) using the same hosting company I use for Rhetorica and Carbon Trace. No big deal as far as I’m concerned except that my kiester is on the line if anything goes wrong.

I’m very pleased with the work ONJ reporters did this year. They did what I wanted them to do most: Take the site seriously as a news organization. Not long after our coverage schedule began, I could hear them on their cell phones in the ONJ newsroom talking to sources and referring to themselves as reporters for Ozarks News Journal.

Reality is the best teacher. My job is to push them into it.

The ONJ reporters have one more feature package assignment to do before the semester ends (deadline 2 May). And they will continue to write their blogs through 4 May.

So what happens this summer? Well, I’ll be doing some blogging for the site. We have an audience now, so it’s important not to let ONJ simply go dark for three months. Further, I need to stay ahead of the curves — and, yes, there are several. A transparency curve. A web journalism curve. A how-do-I-use-the-latest-new-tool curve. The social media curve.

Furhter, any ONJ reporter is welcome to continue contributing. I hope some of them will do so.

Each student will complete a synthesis paper assignment in which they assess their work and what they think they learned. But just as important, they will tell me where this thing needs to go. I’ll be paying very careful attention to their comments and suggestions. They are the future of journalism. They understand that the web (and multimedia reporting and story-telling) will largely be that future. I see very few students now in our print/internet journalism track who assume they will be going to work for print-only news organizations.

We cover a lot of bases in the Department of Media, Journalism & Film. One of them is web-tech skills. A group of students is doing a project for one of our web classes to develop an ONJ iPhone app and a new WordPress theme designed to meet our needs and look snazzy.

So things are moving forward rapidly.

Once again, I’ve arrived at the point in a post in which I ought to actually discuss what the headline promises. And once again, I’m bailing out. I don’t know what it all means yet. This I do know: If students continue to improve the site (and their reporting), ONJ will soon become an important news organization in Springfield. Our public affairs focus — following from our university mission — will give us a unique and complementary niche here. Then, I think, we’ll be in a position to learn something.

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2 Responses

  1. Tim 

    Well done, Andy! Kudos on another success and I agree ONJ contributes in an important local niche.

  2. acline 

    Tim… Thanks! I’m looking forward to the fall semester already :-)