Discussions on the future of journalism education

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.

And for even more, here are thoughts from Mindy McAdams, Bob Stepno, Andy Dickinson and of course, this Journalistopia post, where bright minds from all over contributed their thoughts.

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.

Author: Danny Sanchez

Danny Sanchez is the Audience Development Manager at Tribune's Sun-Sentinel.com and OrlandoSentinel.com. Danny has been with Tribune since 2005 in a variety of editorial, digital and product development roles in Hartford, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. He has also previously worked in the newsrooms of the Tampa Bay Times and The Miami Herald.

6 thoughts on “Discussions on the future of journalism education”

  1. Good list. I sent this post to our online guys to suggest they use it to inform the staff during training and the daily work. One responded with this about #2: “I think related to that point is recognizing we’re in a constant battle with the competition. It never lets up. I think reporters need to think in terms of what they file online as dispatches that can be updated throughout the day if need be, recognizing that we have WFMY, WXII, News Channel 14, Fox 8, and the Biz Journal breathing down our necks.

    “And also if they come across something the newspaper’s not interested in for whatever reason — a school shutting down in Davidson due to a gas leak for example — we still want that on our Web site.”

  2. Okay, so she gets the river reference, but I get the well? 🙂 thanks for the reminder. Obviously, that was sitting in my subconscious for some time.

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