With the slow death spiral that Newspapers seem to be in across the country, TV Stations are hunkering down in the economic storm, and Yearbooks are suffering losses in sales – I’m sure many journalism teachers are wondering how much longer we will be teaching journalism.
But the truth is that we shouldn’t think of ourselves as newspaper, yearbook or broadcast teachers. We are journalism teachers. And journalism has many faces. I’m not talking about just design and PR. I’m talking about real journalism – which means reporting, digging for information, synthesizing that information and then finding the most suitable way to convey that information.
We still need to teach journalism. We need to teach students how to report. That means electronic search, interviewing, crowd sourcing, photography and videography. These are valuable skills, even for students who may not become journalists.
Second, we need to teach them how to analyze the information they find and then synthesize it into something that can be conveyed. This is probably the hardest part of our job as teachers. Analysis and synthesis are at the top of the Bloom’s Taxonomy. They are hard. Some students may not get it in one year of journalism instrution, some may need two or more years to get it. Some kids just aren’t emotionally or intellectually mature enough in high school. But that does not mean we shouldn’t try to teach the skills.
Finally, we can’t just think of journalism as publishing or even broadcasting. Journalism will more and more become a creature of the web. We must teach our students that there are six W’s now: Who, What, When, Where, Why and Web. Journalists are storytellers and information providers. And we must now decide: how should we tell a story? What’s the best way: photos, video, written text, flash animation, interactive database, or even some or all of the above?
Do the old skills still matter? Yes.
We must still teach writing, design, photography and editing. But we must add to that HTML, CSS, CMS, Flash, SEO, and more. As teachers, we must be the first learner in our classroom. We can’t just sit still and depend on our old skills to guide us through this change in the business of journalism.
Film maker Ralph Bakshi, like many others has shown us the path for how to handle a changing business in hard economic times. If the business model is failing or broken, then don’t keep doing what you’ve always done. You have to do something different. Like Apple computer in the late ’90s, if you want to change the game – you have to play a different game. Apple killed their old computer line and brought out the iMac and then the iPod. They killed their old operating system and rolled out OS X. It was gutsy.
We have to be gutsy and move with or even ahead of the industry. Printed journalism will always be with us, but we must begin to move towards more of our journalism being web based, so that we can train the future journalists now in the tools they will need tomorrow.
Our society still needs journalists, to help sort the chaff of infomation from the wheat. But that will be done more efficiently and effectively online. The skills that journalists possess are helpful to democracy and free societies. But journalists can not cling to the old advertiser supported-ink on dead trees model. It is broken, and it is time to move on and see ourselves as much more.