J-Schools Will Play Catchup Forever in New Media Age

While it has been reported with increasing regularity by evermore news media and with ever-greater blogysteria over the past 18 months, the trend apparently did not become real until a few days ago when The New York Times said so: Journalism schools are struggling to stay ahead of the new media curve in planning their curricula and larger philosophical and practical directions.  Or in the words of the NYT story headline : “J- Schools Play Catchup.”

My first reaction: Duh.  My second reaction: The tense is wrong.  My suggestion for a revised hed: “J-Schools WILL Play Catchup, Forever and Ever and Ever and Ever . . .

The most important truth j-schools (and all media outlets) need to accept: We will never be caught up again.  New media are dynamic.  Even the name, or at least the first word, hints at their always-innovating nature.  Once we conquer or devise a course to wrap our heads around some aspect of them, it is inevitable (and exciting) that something else will change.  This does not mean a quality curriculum cannot generally capture the skills and theories j-students of tomorrow will need to succeed, but the notion that we will ever again be ‘caught up’ or on top of things is a myth- one that is rooted in our experiences with old media.

What are some foundation and fun courses that should be slotted into any new j-school curriculum?  Here is a slightly serious, slightly snarky top five:

1) Mobile Phone Use 101: The power of a reporter’s mobile phone is already great and growing evermore infinite. This class would be a field-based exercise in mobile blogging, vlogging, photography, audio recording, interviewing, and related Web uploading, downloading, and hyperlinking.

2) Twitter-tastic 140: The entire course would be rooted in the Twitter culture. The syllabus, assignments, class discussions, and exams would all need to fit into the bite-sized tweet format. 

3) Investigative Reporting: A majority of blogging is personal.  A vocal minority discuss issues.  Most of those bloggers critique or expand upon reports already presented elsewhere.  For journalism to remain relevant and needed, it must continue to do the one thing the blogosphere generally does not: in-depth, long-term, beneath-the-surface ‘tough’ stories on complex individuals or issues. (A great recent example is this ESPN investigative report on former baseball great and current entrepreneurial mess Lenny Dykstra.)

4) New Media Ethics: It is obvious even the professionals are not yet entirely sure how to handle all the issues new technology and a 24-hour news cycle hath wrought.  Students must be taught the basics, so as not to end up like Washingtonian Magazine, as reported today by CNN in this linked story and video below.

Washingtonian Video


5) Internet Famous Class: Nowadays, it’s all about getting eyeballs and Web hits in our “attention economy.”  The video below, linked here, explains it all.

Internet Famous Class

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