Spent last Sunday at the West Hollywood Book Fair helping video poets and writers for the online literary site, Guerrilla Reads (that would be guerrilla as in DIY/indy media – no freedom fighters were involved in the making of this production).
Here’s a nifty write-up of how to pull off a half-day guerrilla performance session.
One of the key underlying questions at a number of sessions at today’s start of a four-day annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in Denver was:
How can we save journalism?
The answer from Prof Larry Dailey, multimedia guru at U. of Nevada -Reno speaking on a panel called Breaking the Mold, was simple:
Forget about it. Instead, think about ways to save the roles journalism has played in democracy.
Dailey, who must be among the first j profs in the country to teach a journalism class in Innovation, touted Harvard prof Clay Christensen’s ideas about disruptive innovation, popularized in The Innovator’s Dilemma, as a lens for considering the journalism industry’s decline.
Successful businesses, driven by stockholder’s demands, stick with routines and the competencies developed to efficiently carry them out, and this inevitably leads to inflexibility and failure as the nimble innovator races between their legs, so to speak. Think music industry and Napster.
What the journalist of the future needs, then, is an ability to think creatively, to come up with new ideas, to learn to start out with what Dailey dubs “a crappy prototype” that might lead to a real innovation — or might not.
Other panelists included:
Mississippi’s Samir Husni “Mr Magazine” who emphasized creating experiences for audiences, citing examples from magazine covers that ranged from scratch and sniff to 3D to an audience favorite: peel the clothes from a cover boy. (Doesn’t take much to excite a bunch of middle-aged professors.)
Minnesota’s Nora Paul who discussed their Knight News Challenge-funded project that aimed to create an online game about Ethanol to see if a play format would attract and better inform audiences. The answer: um, not really. Er, sounds like idea that ran out of gas?
Ball State’s Jennifer George-Palilonis discussed cross-campus projects pulling together multiple departments and colleges to create innovative online media and mobile apps.
This fall I threw out the book on our sophomore-junior level writing class, Journalism 310 Writing, Reporting & Ethics III. Literally.
After months of departmental discussions, major purchases of backpack journalism equipment, a week-long convergence bootcamp, and a university Beck grant, I completely re-imagined what was once a feature writing class. J310 became a test tube for multimedia journalism unlike anything I’ve taught before.
The results? Students shot and edited video, wrote reviews for Yelp, created Google Maps, and even tried their hands at live blogging. They used WordPress blogs as the sites for the content they produced, and signed up for YouTube accounts to post video. (This tag cloud gives a sense of what we covered, or you can visit the class site or blog for more specifics. To see what students produced, visit their individual blogs.)
“I was under the impression this would be an intensive writing class not a Web 2.0 class . . . In fact, the writing we have done seems supplemental to technology.” This is a key issue facing all print journalists — technology is taking away from the basics of reporting and writing. To what extent should that be happening in student journalism classes as well?
“I needed further explanation on how to use these tools.” While writing skills vary in journo classes, the variation in tech skills seems greater to me, and thus presents a thornier problem. Some students wanted minimal explanation and then an opportunity to dive in; others wanted more guidance. Perhaps more emphasis on peer mentoring?
“Would have liked a more solid syllabus that mapped out assignments better.” Because the class was new, I wasn’t entirely sure how much we could cover, so the syllabus was a bit vague. I revised it as the semester went along but it still needs fleshing out.
The curriculum committee also surveyed faculty this semester about their use of new media and their thoughts about incorporating such tools.
Faculty are teaching: Soundslides, Garageband, iMovie/Windows Movie Maker, blogging, wikis, Twitter, RSS, Firefox plugin architecture, social bookmarking, website creation, HTML, CSS. Examples of student work:
Student-produced PR VNR (De Veaux)
J110 News Spotting blog (Charles)
J210 blog (Bowen)
Scene Magazine (Shapiro)
El Nuevo Sol (Benavides)
Basic Internet skills need to be taught earlier in the program vs. No online skills until the 300 level (whoa, how do we reconcile those lines of thought?)
Problems include “giving up certain assignments in favor of the multimedia projects.”
Students need to spend extra time learning the tools early in the semester, so they don’t scramble to do so with their final, major assignments.
Inconsistency in departmental software; mainly Mac labs but mainly PC-owning students.
Taking my J310 students’ comments and those from faculty into account, the issues are the same:
- What’s our emphasis as we incorporate new skills with traditional ones? How do we keep up-to-date without forgetting our roots?
- When and at which levels do we incorporate new technology skills?
- Professors need to calibrate how much more time will be needed to teach these new forms journalism, and whether traditional ways of explaining still work.
Here is a Powerpoint presentation of recommendations for print journos learning to use video — the slides have been remixed via a website called Animoto. You upload the slides, they let you select some music and viola — a 30-second music video. Is this the future or I am just a sucker for glitzy toys?
Update: The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that students watching videos of professors’ lectures are running them at up to twice their normal speed.