Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Training future journalists

I am not old enough or experienced enough to be an online expert or really to be teaching others. Yet, that is what I am doing here at the Spartan Daily.

Ryan Sholin spoke this evening to Steve Sloan's new media class here at SJSU, and I snuck in the back. Ryan and I were in a class together a couple of years ago, but this is the first time we actually meet in person since getting to know each other online.

Ryan went over some of the basics of online news. The response was pretty typical for college students: deer in the headlights. Yeah, they all use the Internet, all day long. They are on e-mail and in Facebook and on Perez Hilton, but they don't use the Internet the way we geeks use the Internet. It is always a little jarring for us to realize that we are the ones on the cutting edge. Even at a j-school, even in Silicon Valley, most people still are not on Digg, Twitter, and a host of other sites. And it is overwhelming for them when they see all of the stuff that is out there and that we say they should be using.

It is sad, but even students at a journalism school get most of their news from the headlines they see on AOL as they log in to get their mail.

I am a news geek. I could never live that way, but somehow, a lot of people do.

After Ryan was done talking to the class, we walked over to the Spartan Daily newsroom. Ryan was the online editor here a couple of years ago. There are new desks, but not much has changed in the way we put out the paper every day.

But on the Web site, the mantel has now passed to me, and while we have made a lot of improvements, but there is still a long way to go.

The main thing I have realized so far this semester is that my job is to train the other staff members and give them a little taste of what multimedia is all about.

Sure, I could spend all my time producing content, making videos and improving the site. But then no one else would learn anything.

Instead, I make the new reporters do projects for the Web site. The end product might not be as good as if I was doing it all myself, but it keeps me from burning out, and it means that 20 or so new journalists are learning the basics of the Internet.

Each staff writer is required to do three projects for the Web site over the course of the semester. Mostly, they are doing Soundslides and videos. Here are some examples.

Its nothing amazing, but it's a start.


Murley said...

Hey, every little bit helps. The biggest thing I can think that would help most college newspapers is for the regular reporters to start putting their own content into the CMS. In my ideal world, reporters would write their stories in the online cms and then that content would get ported out to the print copy system at the end.

Hasn't happened yet, but one can always dream.

And, yeah, they sure do read that perez hilton a lot! :-)

keep up the good work.

Kevin Myrick said...


You and I have probably talked a lot more about this whole "training situation" more than we ever should, since as some presidential candidates keep pointing out, "talk is cheap."

But I have to say that while you don't believe that the content is "good," it is like you say a start. And I think the thing you should focus on now is encouraging more web reporting with the kids that have already done it. Sure, they've done their project. Great. But I think that in order for any reporters of our generation to survive, you have to start early and say "OK, you did that. That's great. But what have you done today?"

That's the next step to me.

That, and I think you (or anyone, really) should show these reporters the difference between their work and what is considered "good" work. That's the only way to develop talent, and if someone (not necessarily you, but SOMEONE (ahem professors!) will show them the difference between good and bad, or decent and better even (cause their work is decent, after all) then that will make great improvements of what they can do, especially when they're presented with limited resources.

I don't need to say keep up the good work. Cause I already know you will.

Oh, Tobin and I both agree that you need to have your desk cleaned out by the time we get back from lunch. We had such high hopes for you... ;-)