Thursday, May 8, 2008

How to Incorporate New Media in Feature Writing

Yesterday was my last day of classes, and we spent part of feature writing talking about how multimedia techniques -- blogging, photos, audio slideshows, brief video interviews -- should be incorporated into this particular class in the future.

As is my wont, I left it all pretty loose this semester, mandating blogging, photos, slideshow and video but not linking these activities to particular assignments. When you feel like it, you know? The level of compliance has varied, some students doing a lot and some students doing a little. No one will suffer for having only done a little.

When asked for their opinion (that most daring of pedagogical novelties), the students gave me some. Though sometimes one can over interpret nods, winces and general body language, I'm thinking several students agreed with Matt when he said I should waste *no* class time on having the students do multimedia. It diverts from what the class is about: writing.

Also, as someone else said, my expertise is in writing, not in multimedia, and my stumbling efforts at that kind of "making" are a waste of time in that way, too.

Other students -- though I think not a majority -- indicated they liked having the multimedia required, although they said I should have the requirements much more structured: for the immigrant story we take a picture; for the travel story we do a slideshow; for the final profile we do a two-minute interview on video. Tighten up the checklist, in other words.

Other suggestions: introduce multimedia elements into the Intro to Media Studies course, supplementing the theory part; have a multimedia course at the sophomore level that everyone in the major could take and journalism minors must take; make every Media Studies major create a blog in the first MS class he or she takes, the expectation being that every class will require posting.

One student -- was it you, Cameron? -- said he felt the content of 19 out of 20 blogs was self-indulgent bullshit, and my requiring that the class blog simply piled it all higher and deeper. But he (or someone) allowed that it would be legitimate for me to require not "fresh" posts but comments on existing posts. That would be purposeful.

And thus we arrive at our last assignment (albeit a new assignment) for this class. Students! Start your engines. Comment on this post. Add. Subtract. Amend.


david silver said...

i'll be eager to hear student feedback on this. i too am asking the same questions that you, michael, are asking. i hope a number of us faculty types can get together over the summer and think creatively and collaboratively about incorporating media and new media into not only journalism classes but all of our media studies classes. and i hope we - students, staff, and faculty - in media studies can develop periodical forums to get feedback from our students about classes, curriculum, community, etc.

i liked this summary of a student comment: "they said I should have the requirements much more structured: for the immigrant story we take a picture; for the travel story we do a slideshow; for the final profile we do a two-minute interview on video. Tighten up the checklist, in other words." i am guilt of sometimes not having strict enough guidelines/check-lists, things that are quite useful to many of our students.

matt yoka said...

Students are scarred to say that assignments should have stricter guidelines because they think that will result in more work and less room to move around what the professor is looking for. This is probably true. But none the less, I think this needs to happen. Also, i think the classes need to be simplified. Feature writing should be focused on writing (I don't think the class was too distracted from writing. However, without the multimedia aspect, the class could have devoted even more time to the assignments and the "craft" of writing. Or maybe in Robertson's class, "The witch craft" of writing). Then you can make a whole new class for things like internet media.
*what i did like about the attempt to incorporate multimedia was that it displayed how unsure the future of journalism and media in general is.

John Kim said...

Hi. My sense is that over the last couple of years the department went from having a little new media content to a lot, to the extent that some classes duplicated efforts (though not at all a bad thing, because it gave more upperclassmen experience with new media that they wouldn't have gotten before graduating).

I suggest (and echoing David's comment about getting students' feedback on this too) having a required Intro to New Media class in the department on the basis of which we can assume a basic familiarity and ability with various new media technologies. From here, decisions can be made about how upper level classes can mix writing with new media production. This includes not only upper level journalism classes, but potentially new classes on new media for narrative, non-narrative and documentary purposes as well.

steakley said...

Here's a little advice from one of the more jaded journalism students to graduate from USF. While I feel it’s my alumni duty to shed light on the current state of journalism for students, I feel no obligation to sugar coat my comments. The walls of academic do a sufficient job of insulating budding reporters from the commercial pressures causing upheaval in the journalism industry so it’s working journalists’ responsibility to inject a little reality into the classroom.

Learning multimedia skills is very important for today's industry and not a waste of students' time.

Let’s look at something most writers shy away from: hard data. Newsroom layoffs are spreading like wildfire. A few of the casualties include: the Mercury News where 50 employees, 15 were in the newsroom, were pink slipped, The New York Times Company, which issued a hiring freeze and reduced its work force by 500 employees (45 in the newsroom at the Times’ newsroom and 35 in the Boston Globe’s newsroom) and The Seattle Times, which foze 60 positions and fired 131 people, including more than a dozen in the newsroom. Newspaper circulation continues to fall. The industry is dying a slow death.

Part of the problem is the newspapers, and magazines, are forced to compete with television, reality-TV, celebrity bloggers like Perez Hilton and YouTube. As a result, journalists are now expected to understand how to tell stories through 200-world blog posts, slideshows, videos, photos and audio. And with the media layoffs reporters don’t have a team of photographers and audio-visual technicians to shoot, edit and upload content. That’s now the reporter’s job.

Online media is no longer a segment of the larger media industry. Everything is online now. And reporters better know how to use multimedia tools to tell stories of a serious nature and capture the fickle public’s attention because all those civic issues about public policy are competing with salacious news about Miley Cyrus.

So the bottom line is:

Matt was incorrect when he said Dr. Robertson should waste *no* class time on having the students do multimedia. It diverts from what the class is about: writing.

Matt, writing is no longer words on a page. Future employers want you to understand how to enhance your writing with multimedia content and in some cases you’ll be responsible for producing it yourself.

To the student who said: “my expertise is in writing, not in multimedia, and my stumbling efforts at that kind of "making" are a waste of time in that way, too.”

Anonymous student, appreciate the fact that you have time in school, without the pressures of editorial deadlines, to learn and strengthen your skills at creating digital content. Be glad that you won’t have to learn, and stumble through, this type of training at your first job, or worse, not be able to get a first job because you don’t have these skills on your resume.

Dr. Robertson: The students are right the requirements should be much more structured and the checklist tightened. And it would be a good idea to introduce multimedia elements to other classes or have a multimedia course that is required for journalism majors.

Cameron is right 19 out of 20 blogs are self-indulgent bullshit. But that speaks more about the authors than medium. Many newspapers and magazines require reporters to blog daily in addition to writing stories and it’s crucial to learn how to effectively distribute information, communicate with the masses and tell stories through a blog.

And here’s another reason why blogging is important—book editors pay attention blogs with tremendous traffic. Two food writers in Seattle—Molly Wizenberg and Shauna James Ahem—received their first book deal because of their popular and well-written blogs. Random House recently bought the blog Stuff White People Like, for a reportedly $350,000, and turned it into a book. And once you do write a book, then blogs become even MORE important because it’s your public persona and marketing vehicle—yes, regardless of the fact that you choose the artistic craft of writing you still have to sell yourself.

Students you may graduate from USF, move on to a glowing writing career filled with meaty feature stores and book deals and never have to waste a keystroke again on creating a slideshow or video clip. If so, great you can sip victory cocktails and smugly tell people how I was wrong. But considering the importance media owners place on digital content and the way technology is trending that scenario seems unlikely. So make the most of the $34,000 you’re spending a year on tuition and learn some skills that will make you an attractive job candidate.

[Editor’s note: I’m writing a book myself and under excruciating deadlines so I take no responsibility for any grammatical errors in the above post, which was hastily written.]

Lauren said...

Since the name of the class is Feature Writing, I believe that this should be the focus, not multi-media. Of course it makes sense to add a picture or two with every story, but an elaborate slideshow or video isn't needed to get the point of the story across. However, since convergence is big right now, it does seem necessary that a print journalist have technology skills. I think that a class dedicated to multi-media would be useful. It would familiarize students with various medias rather than concentrating on mastering one. I like feature writing because I get to write stories, not because I get to put up a slideshow or pictures.g

Doug Madey said...

Another alumni chiming in here. Not so jaded, though. I don’t think.

Reiterating somewhat on Steakley’s comments, I believe that there is a total and 100% need for USF to administer courses for Media Studies/Journalism students that touch on the various aspects of multimedia being used today.

I’m not the biggest fan, but I’d like to touch on Twitter right now because it’s timely.

@Steakley touching on your “200-word blog posts” comment. If you haven’t already seen this, it’s worth checking out.

Today (5/8) Steven Baker of BusinessWeek is “writing an article” about the value of microblogging, and he’s doing it as a collaborative effort on Twitter. He started the story off with the allotted 140 character thread, and then allowed followers to chime in with tweets. He said he may even use certain tweets in his own story.

Here is the link to his blog post that announces his Twitter story:

Now, this is a creative way to cover a specific story angle, but there are many other journalists and bloggers prevalent on Twitter, Facebook, etc. They are all using it as an outlet to obtain info and build a following.

On a side not, since graduating from USF in 06’ I’ve been on about 10 interviews, all for online publications or PR firms. I would say that 8 out of 10 interviews had questions regarding blogs; whether I had one, I subscribed to one or I contribute to one. Just FYI for all peeps out there starting the interview process.

I don’t know…I guess that’s it, and I could add more..but I’ve been on a computer all day and I’m sick of it! Go ride a bike or something…

vicky n said...

i'm just seconding what steakley wrote. that was a nice cold splash of real world, and as i come fresh off co-teaching my first class at usf, it's exactly what students need to read. and take to heart.

learn it all. do it all. quit with the sense of entitlement and the focus on style over substance (that's especially directed at the aspiring tv reporters). you have to earn those a's and you have to battle for those jobs.

steakley--props for taking the time to impart so many pearls of wisdom.


Lester Jeff said...

I think new media is important in today's journalistic world. While the text, the writing is still and should always be the centerpiece of a story or any writing, that sadly isn't enough anymore. People look for photos, video, other interactive features more than they do well-written stories.
Definitely sucks for us writers, but it's an unfortunate reality.

So I do think we can use media to add to written stories. They don't have to be so elaborate, so *I think* a couple of pictures and a quick video are okay.

With class, I think having a picture accompany each story is okay. And maybe for the final profile, a video would be nice, since you hang out with the person so much. Otherwise, I think more than that can be optional. One class devoted to how to do the simple things towards the beginning of the class would be good.

But a separate class can be helpful and I think in the future it will become more and more necessary to learn new media.

Tmorahan said...

This blog shows the value of blogging. You can be anonymous, or not, and can be honest in your feedback.
(If there are nasty anonymous blogs you can ignore them)
All interesting...on the issue of guidelines and checklists:
The absence of these "tight" guidelines allows the student a little creativity which is of some value. The problem with this lacking in structure in academia is relative to the grading structure of the prof. Each student is (usually) interested in a good grade and therefore want to "satisfy" the criteria.
If the grading is only for the writing and the medium of submittal - just that, a medium, then the students might be a little more at ease with the exploratory nature of using "new" media (new?). (the students need to be informed of this)
When a student works hard on creativity in any class and gets slammed for deviating from the assignment it can be frustrating - especially when the student didn't know what the "actual" grading structure was. (I imagine Prof. Robertson is not guilty of this but it is, I believe, in the minds of many students as the semester gains traction)
On the issue of blogs being mostly B.S. Can't we say that about the media?
Not that there is anything wrong with that!
We must filter through the b.s. and get the nuggets we desire. And at times hopefully we are capable of seeing through the media to nuggets which we have previously missed in our lives. Perhaps the media can, at times, educate us and make our lives richer?
I imagine some of us are studying media for reasons somehow related to this.
And to end with a question: What about the aesthetics of "new" media? Are blogs aesthetically pleasing? Is this presentation visually appealing?

Just some thoughts. I have learned from this your blogging is not in vain (for what that's worth!)

Anonymous said...

Thanks to our alums (& some ex-students I am happy to hear from -- hi, from the Stroppy Prof!), but -- well -- Fuck The Real World. We don't teach media studies merely in order to offer job training. Sorry. But you can get that in community college. You can't think straight if you cannot write. If college doesn't teach you to write the best prose you've ever composed, then the profs are not doing their jobs. Yes, we should teach new media. Yes, we should *totally* revamp Intro. Yes, we should talk about this in Robertson's back yard over gay beer, I mean, Fosters. But the goal is critical thinking, then job training. Hence, writing must always be central.

Anonymous said...

As a professional blogger, I have to agree with steakley that a writer/journalist's role has changed drastically with the introduction of professional blogs. At my job as a fashion editor at, not only am I required to write posts, I am also required to input photos, html, slideshows, videos, etc. If I were asked this question 5 years ago, perhaps I would answer that only focusing on writing is preferable, but in this day and age, teaching the tools of new media is smart and beneficial to students, even if they don't feel it at the time. They'll thank you after they land a job.

-Melody Nazarian, class of '05

Anonymous said...

I must add, however, that writing should continue to be the main focus of the course. Knowing new media tools is good, but it goes without saying that no one will hire a poor writer just because he/she knows how to brief a photo interview. In the end, those skills can be taught in a training session; good writing cannot.

-Melody Nazarian

johnusher said...

I think the lack of multimedia posts in our class this semester was due more to a lack of urgency than anything else. We were asked occasionally how our blogs were going and even spent two class periods working on them. But, the reason for no posted video reports, photo slide shows, and blog posts was really because of my lack of motivation to post content that wouldn't negatively effect my grade. Before I turn my final profile in on Monday I will post the video I made for my trend story, the photos I took for the restaurant review, and a google map for my travel story. Too late for credit? I hope not, but finally that sense of urgency that accompanies the end of the semester has caught up with me. Professor Robertson, if you want us to do this stuff force it upon us,threaten us with bad grades. But, since you aren't that kind of guy, create multimedia days where students bring in the video, photos, or audio they've collected and dedicate class periods to walking them through their production.

Katie said...

Another alumni here. Such a lively discussion--I love it!

I agree with much of what has already been said so I'll try and not repeat my points. Yes, without a doubt, learning new media vital. Even if you want to pursue a career as a writer, I would argue that you still need to have an understanding of what new ways your writing may be produced. You're going to be competing with a thousand other people who are well equipped with the written word, but not everyone will have experience with new technology--blogging, videos, photography. If USF is willing to offer you insight into these formats, then please, take advantage of it! (I would have loved an opportunity to take a class specifically on this subject, and do vote 'yes' to one being created!)

And just on a personal note: I was hired to work on Senator Biden's presidential campaign in Iowa this past winter, and one of my responsibilities was writing posts for the campaign's official blog on Biden's website. The ONLY reason I was offered such a great task was because of the blog I had done for Professor Robertson's class. Yes, I knew how to write--and that is awfully important--but if I hadn't had experience with BLOG writing, I never would have gotten hired for such a role.

New media is the future of journalism. It's not as if the campaign was going to ask me to write for a printed newsletter they were going to have to spend money on mailing out. They wanted writing done online, where all of Biden's supporters around the world could read it and access it quickly.

So, yes, always focus on your writing skills, but never hesitate to learn how to implement that great writing into other formats of media. And listen to Robertson. He usually knows what he's talking about!

Nick Peterson said...

I really do think there is a certain value that comes with learning these multimedia things. We are moving into the digital age and I think it's important that we keep up with what is going on in the world of journalism. That being said, I would have liked to seen more structure in terms of what was required of us. Give us an assignment for the blog or a direction to go. To often it was just "write whatever you want whenever you want" and I think that can help lead to the bullshit.
I think the blogs would be valuable if we blog about things going on in the world of journalism, things that we talk about in class, issues we come across while reporting. It seems like that has been the goal of the blogs but I don't know if that has come to fruition. I think if we are given blog assignments that we really have to think about that it will add more quality. To be honest, students are not going to put in the time if things are not required of them in class. I don't think blogging should be a main feature in the feature writing class, but having a few structured blogging assignments would make sense.
I say we should keep the blogs but incorporate them into assignments more, give students time to really think and write on them. Give a couple of good blogging assignments throughout the semester, again not to make it the focus of the class, but a good supplementary exercise.

Anonymous said...

I really agree that the focus of the feature writing class as it says is "writing" and it should stay that way. Even though I really like to add multimedia components to my stories if it completes it in some ways, I think that each class should keep its focus. The fact is that if we really want to learn how to write properly, we need time and classes are short enough so we should take advantage of class and not lose the focus. For that reason I think that we should put maybe a picture but some people don't know how to play with the multimedia softwares or don't have time so you can't force them to do it. So I thnk that's important that media studies students learn about multimedia and how to use it properly by adding a class for instance but we should keep each class with its focus in order to make the most of it.

matt yoka said...

I understand you are bitter steakley but essentially here's what I got from your comment: USF should have a class that tries to explain every aspect of the media in an hour and a half class session and not focus on anything but rant and rave about how publishers and editors want so much from writers these days (we offer that class by the way, its called intro to media studies 101).

Have you ever had several projects you've had to do in the same day and all of them came out so-so? That is because you didn't take one thing at a time. You spread yourself thin. Much like I'm doing right now during finals week.

Also, I've heard the cliche "it's tuff to be a writer rant before." Don't think you are the first person to tell us students that. Now I want to know how to be a good writer. That is why i took FEATURE WRITING. (Professor Robertson - you helped me greatly.)

What we need are classes that don't get rapped up in the complicated web of WHAT IS MEDIA? Media Studies should offer classes that focus on each individual aspect of media. I agree completely, journalism is not just about writing. But writing is one of the most important aspects of journalism and one of the hardest aspects to excel in. To stop teaching writing classes that focus just on writing is going to further prevent writer's from finding a strong voice.

Audrey Sherman said...

Although I had trouble figuring out how to load some of the multi-media onto my computer and blog and it was time-consuming, it was also a good learning experience. I have never really played around with these different features for the simple fact that I didn't have to. However, I do feel that it is important going into a journalism career today. I would have to disagree with Matt that the course shouldn't include ANY multi-media. Instead, I think that if it were more structured it would be easier to keep up with and more clear as to what was required of us. It was also great to actually see and get a sense of what everyone's subjects were instead of just reading about them, adding a whole new dimension to the assignments. Maybe since it is a Feature Writing class you could have 3-5 required assignments so that students can just get the feel for how the media works but not over do it.

Maria Dinzeo said...

While I think blogging can be a self-indulgent, sometimes mindless endeavor, it is an important skill to learn in a world that values technology above all else. But speaking as someone who has had tremendous difficulty with posting photo slideshows and video to my blog, I would have liked to learn these necessary skills much earlier, preferably in Intro to Media Studies.
Since everyone is required to take this course regardless of their emphasis, everyone would learn how to create slideshows and videos and post them, before being thrown into a course that assumes they know how to do these kinds of assignments.
Sadly, I spent more time trying to figure out how to embed video clips and get my slideshow to work than actually writing. This may be a result of my gross incompetence when it comes to these things, but I know that if I had had a little more training early on, I would no have had such difficulty.

Tiffany said...

Another alum here.

Yeah, I can see where some students might think that writing and online communities, blogging, multi-media bullshit, etc. etc. might not be important, they are unfortunately being short-sighted.

It's just because they haven't had to try to find a job yet, but when they do, they'll find, simply hunkering down at the old typewriter ain't good enough anymore. Not to sound brash, but hey, Hunter Thompson is dead kids, and so is that era of journalism.

It's different now, so don't try to romanticize it. And while I still feel like journalism is the most glorious profession a person can have, it's changing.

Sure, a lot of blogs are steeped in self-indulgent bullshit, but so are a ton of magazines and newspapers. It's not the people behind the blogs that matter, it's the form of communication itself.

Yelp, Flickr, Craig's List, these are all SUPER IMPORTANT communities and you can't brush aside its significance.

Just like reporters had to move from typewriters to computers, so do reporters have to move from simply writing, to understanding all forms of communication.

For instance, at my current magazine, we do everything on wikis and our entire story list is on a Google Docs spreadsheet - and this isn't a tech rag, it's a travel magazine. And guess who started it? CNET's billionaire founder, Halsey Minor. These are the people with the bucks; these are the people keeping publishing alive.

Now, does that multi-media component fit into a Feature Writing class, maybe not. But every kind of medium requires a different type of storytelling, so maybe the solution is Feature Telling?

And as far as the theory stuff - if kids plan on going to grad school to further their academic understanding of communications, then the theory is a good foundation. However, for someone like me, who has been in journalism, pretty much since college, I really gained nothing but trivial facts from it.

the cancer blogs said...

another alum signs in.
I'm not surprised everyone jumped on Lia, but she brought the blog a real life, working journalists perspective.
Every reporter, from here on out, will write a blog at one point. Every reporter, from 2008 on, will be asked to include multi-media presentations when pitching a project. every reporter, since the introduction of the web, will have to write online updates for breaking news.
Is a class on feature writing the place to focus on new media? Probably not. As a few before have noted, new media should be a part of a students foundation for a degree in communications, or journalism, at least.
But new media can't be ignored. That's why newspapers are getting slaughtered by the web, because nobody at the major dailies, or the companies that owned them, took the web seriously until it was 15 years too late. suing craigslist isn't going to change the fact that the mediascape has totally changed.
I think Andrew brought up a good point: critical thinking is key to the study of media and key to good reporting. critical thinking can't be abandoned in light of job preparation. Will studying Adorno get me a job? No, but neither will a masters degree from Columbia's school of journalism.
honestly, outside of learning basic web programming, layout, design and AP style, no school will adequately prepare someone for working in journalism. While we're at it, how about a class on public records and public record law. And if anyone is serious about investigative reporting in the current media climate, you need computer-assisted reporting and data analysis skills.
Allow me to be crude. As reporters, we are employees of employers who are ultimately selling a product. the product in the market place needs to differentiate itself from the others. our product, I suppose you could argue, is packaging and selling the truth in its most accessible form, to steal a phrase from Carl Bernstein.
my paper recently ran a three day series on social promotion. our reporting was based on an analysis of millions of local student grades from eight local districts going back to the 2001-02 school year. along with the traditional stories (at least 12 over three days), the project included creating a database of those grades, which is now accessible to readers with web access. along with the database and the traditional stories, there is also a photo slide show and three short-videos. all of this was completed by a team of reporters, but this is what is expected with investigative packages.
all of this makes the topic of social promotion -- the practices of promoting or graduating failing students to the next grade level -- come alive.

Tiffany said...

I just want to add that it's hard to be a student and really understand what the real world is like. And I mean that qualifier ONLY as it relates to studying journalism.

George has good points about classes in researching public records. I'd like to list Understanding City Planning Codes, Eminent Domain and You, or Reading a City Budget, Consent Decrees...the list goes on and on.

Only tried and true experience will shape a journalist, but students need to be open-minded to everything. You need to be open to Blog-Posting 101, Podcasting 101, and for that matter, photocopying 101. Know it all.

Every reporter brings something new to the table; a different kind of sensitivity and perspective. Andrew is right when he says that to be critical of the media will make you a better reporter. And why is that? Because you are looking at how trends are shaped, how we choose to communicate. Read enough books, and I mean the fiction stuff, and the same kinds of things happen.

Don't ever lock yourself in a room and think there's stuff you'll never need to know. Even those basic math skills come in handy. I wish I'd paid more attention in stats class; I wish I was multi-lingual. What's great about journalism, is it's a fountain of topics and interests. There's no way of getting pigeon-holed if you do it right.

I've gone from being community newspaper reporter, to a metropolitan daily, to a violin magazine, to a tech mag, to now a travel mag. The friggin tech job and the violin gig is what got me the travel mag job. I kid you not.

I am blathering now, but the larger point I hope people take away, is you can only grow as a human being by exposing yourself to as much as possible. That's a lesson that should be taken seriously inside and outside the classroom.

Anonymous said...

Professor, I published me comment a couple times but it didn't seem to show-up on the blog. Maybe I just looked in the wrong places. Anyhow, the following is my comment:

I don't think that we should bag the whole idea of multi-media journalism all together.

Personally, I plan to maintain some sort of multi-meida project while I teach next year in Mississippi and I doubt I would have thought about it if I hadn't been forced to do it.

But I do think that forced blogging creates a lot of bullshit. I think one or two multi-media enhanced stories should be required. But just for the goal of introduction and exploration.

If students want to do more with it...awesome. But I shouldn't be stressed-out because my professor wants me to write something using a format that I might consider a waste of time, and who wants to read something from someone that isn't passionate.

I don't think it has been proven that blogging is essential for success in journalism. Therefore, it shouldn't be viewed as something that must be mastered.

-Cameron McKee

Anonymous said...

OK, I've forgotten my username/password so I'll just respond here. Chances are y'all have said everything that I'm about to say. Sheesh, I sound like Lia Steakley with all that y'all stuff.

I think it depends on how much "new media" training the kids are getting elsewhere, outside of your class. If they're getting suitable experience, perhaps you should just feature on the writing aspect, since so many bloggers and so-called journalists lack this fundamental skill. How it pains me that some 22-year-old prick, uh, I mean, blogger, can beat me to my own game just because he has the know-how and speed to post something before I do. But if you read his post and compare it to mine, I'm proud to say that there's substance and quality to my stuff. Not to sound like I'm boasting or anything, but you can ask Kent. I'm sure you'll agree that his stuff on CNET is far superior to what's written out there by bloggers.

But with that said, this is an important skill to have and I think Tiffany and Lia mentioned in their comments that students are short sighted if they don't think new media is important. It's no longer just an important skill to have, it's a skill that you MUST have. And to get as much experience in anyway you can, the better.

It's funny you're bringing this up now because at my current job, we just had a meeting trying to figure out how to merge old media into new media, and it's funny to see how many blank stares. It's probably a reason why so many old media pubs are dying. Which is why, right now, I think a young out-of-school journalism student has more appeal to a hiring manager than a seasoned journalist, all because of some stupid skill like knowing how to post a video onto YouTube.

I think we've had this discussion many times before, but you're gonna need both sets of skills.

_ Les Shu

Toan said...

I'm not going to rant about the inevitable-- how students need multimedia skills to survive in the rapidly, ever changing landscape of media-mania...rather, I'm going to share an experience I had at my first TV gig (@the ABC affiliate in Wausau, Wisconsin...actually, it dates back to the summer of 2000, when I was undergoing negotiations with the station (ooops did I date myself?) I was asked by the news director whether or not I knew how to shoot on a DVC camera and whether I knew how to edit. The answer was true, well, kinda...Eagerly, I didn't miss a heartbeat and said,"YES!" Truth is I did have one lesson in class at class at USF. The teacher spent an hour going over editing from tape to tape (so antiquated)and I literally did some editing for 30 minutes. USF did not, and still does not have a full fledged TV program, so I vowed to learn chops and sharpen my production skills off campus at one of my internships. I was hungry and I didn't want to make a fool of myself. (Which I did numerous times in TV, as we all do--that's why we're in our small markets to begin with.) So when I was offered the job, I practiced when I could -- and when I started my first TV GIG ever, in bone chilling Wisconsin (I'm still waiting for my hand made scarf you promised to knit me, JMR) by the grace of God, I somehow caught on and fumbled my way through the little round shuttle and weird colorful buttons on the editing machines...I really honed my skills as a shooter and editor here in cheese country. So with that said, I think that incorporating multimedia skills in the curriculum may be more work, but it will definitely beneficial, and if you don't like that idea, you can always opt to drop the class. Getting out of your comfort zone is important, and if you already blog or know how to make slideshows, you only have one way to go... UP.


Anonymous said...

I have a love.hate relationship with blogging, but it's what we do now. Even the news side has gone to blogs.

-- Kent German

Patrick Lagreid said...

I'm late to the party on this one...but I will just add this little tidbit - I hope that the company you end up working for has things figured out so that you can incorporate new media into your work.

Likewise, I hope that you have people around you who not only get the idea of why it's important to incorporate new media.

Finally, I hope you either have a staff that is dedicated to getting your stories put together for you or a great training department who can teach you how to do it and do it right.

As you might be able to tell, I don't.

We have the initiative to become more interactive between the TV, radio, and web groups, but it's been a long, slow process without great results.

And as one of the younger folks on the staff, I found myself spending so much time trying to change the system that it became pointless and I just put it on the back shelf.

Other than that, lots of good comments so far, especially Tiffany's post about renaming the class "Feature Telling." I think that may be the crux of the discussion...does the title and focus of the class need to be shifted a bit?

I was bit bothered by Prof. Goodwin's comment the first time I read it...I think Toan brought a good issue to the table, and I follow it up by recently learning that no student has showed interest in doing the webcasts of the baseball games. When I inquired why the lack of interest, I was told that the broadcasting element of media studies had basically dried up. Not sure if that's totally true, but an observation I'm concerned about.

Talk about good practice for the real world -- and some cool benefits if you're into sports. I can't believe someone wouldn't be jumping at the opportunity.

Finally -- I just heard a promo on the news station in our cluster that said "If you're reading about it, it's history...if you're hearing about it, it's news." An interesting positioning statement given this discussion.

Jacob Marx said...

Writing will only win with multi-media in its corner. I'm an alum now and thats thanks to Professor Robertson, Professor Silver and Professor Goodwin and Brant. So listen up students... listen to them. DO the assignments, even if its optional. DO the multimedia, especially if its optional. DO the writing and work on the craft. Be tireless in the later. If you can’t DO all of these, DONT be a reporter. Say what? The learning curve is so high right now if you can’t find the time to grasp the writing and the digital format—including all the bells, whistles, and yee-ha’s—you simply won’t get to do what you want (if that is professional writing). No one, and I mean NO ONE, will get a job without knowing the ins and outs of multimedia, the internet, and writing in multiple styles. I’m not sure what the argument is here; haven’t the papers already battled it out with the Internet and lost? If ya can’t beat’em, join’em.

How to learn all this stuff? Really, there is no right way. There are, however, plenty of wrong ways. Waiting till senior year will leave you with hardly enough time to gain all the tools. Trying to learn little by little will not suffice either—there is simply too much out there and too many developing technologies. The easiest way to teach the puppy to swim is throw it in the lake. Don’t worry if it takes three and a half years to finally catch on. The worst thing that could happen is if you give up and pretend the learning will happen on its own. One tool Silver had to offer was teaching the skill in which students learned to learn these technologies fast and on their own. This happened by limiting the walk-throughs and telling students to go out on their own and come back with at least a simple grasp of the technology.

The media studies department should develop a system where the digital technologies are divided among the courses and each one should have the responsibility of teaching those assigned to it, as well as the standard course work. Make no mistake, this is not little by little. This is a lot by a lot. Each technology has its own difficulties and each one takes time to master in its own respect. Maybe simple blogging and RSS goes to intro courses. Pictures and simple effects can be taught in audience and research/institutions. In the advanced courses, I-Maps and audio and can be applied. If there is time, video is great. I’m not sure of the exact format, but there must be a synthesis between manual and digital. One last thing: Love the writing and work hard at it.