I know I’m a day late, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fine interview between ICM’s Bryan Murley and Gatehouse Media’s Howard Owens on what might happen to our young journalists if colleges don’t shape up quick. Also, be sure to catch the first part of Bryan’s piece with WashingtonPost.com’s Rob Curley.
There is a lot of practical advice out there: keep a blog, learn some HTML/CSS, become handy with a camera and audio device, etc. However, students also need to make sure they understand just what the heck is really going on. They need to understand and be taught some of the fundamental, nitty-gritty differences between web journalism and print journalism. A few examples:
1) The big readership time is while people are at work. Breakfast is big, and lunchtime is huge. If a bus drives off a highway in the wee hours of the morning, and you think your deadline to file copy is at 6 p.m., well, you’re going to get reamed. Sunday is the newspaper’s big day. On the Web site, Sundays are usually dead.
2) As Orlando Sentinel editor Charlotte Hall likes to say, online news is like a flowing river, while the newspaper is like a snapshot of the day. That means news judgment on a Web site is different because there is a more complex time element involved that must balance with the “bigness” of the news.
3) Web headlines are often different from print headlines. Online news stories truly live and die by the headline (i.e., just search “Shamu” and “New York Times” in Google). Search engines bring huge traffic and they sniff out headlines based on keywords, so try to get those in there.
4) We don’t necessarily measure a story’s popularity by how many passionate phone calls we get about it any more. We measure it using page views, visitors and the most e-mailed list. But yes, phone calls are fun too.
5) What makes a great blog post might not have legs for a “news story.” A favorite example is Miami Herald reporter Oscar Corral’s blog post about the finely manicured feet of Fidel Castro’s daughter. Would the Herald write a story about this? Probably not. But the blog post was extremely popular, according to Corral. And it was just a paragraph and a photo he snapped.
There are many more such principles out there (do share in the comments), but I worry that students are not getting fundamental nuggets such as these in their college journalism courses. This is stuff everyone needs to know now, not just web-leaning journalists.