Student Journalists reluctant to change; New Media is on the backburner

November 5, 2008

I spent the past week in Kansas City, MO attending the ACP/CMA Convention, a collegiate media conference. As the publisher of The Quinnipiac Chronicle and a new media junkie, I was excited to learn about the new and exciting things that college journalists were coming up with. I took it upon myself to attend as many New Media sessions as possible. I could not have been more disappointed.

On a lighter note, the two best things to come out of this conference were the keynotes by Rich Beckman, a professor at the University of Miami School of Communication and Mark Glaser, Executive Editor of PBS’ MediaShift blog. I got a short clip from Mark Glaser as he was talking about consumers taking control of their media that you can see below.

So back to journalists and their thoughts on new media. Once again, I have to stress my disappointment in the sessions and presenters that were brought in to speak to the attendees of this conference. In an age where new media is becoming mainstream, one would think that experts would be brought in to teach the future leaders of the journalistic world how to use these new and emerging technologies. Instead, the presenters were college students with little experience or advisors who have not used these technologies much before this point in time.

One of the major themes of the conference was the idea that traditional media and journalism are obsolete. After talking to many students and advisers, as well as my own staff members who attended, it seems to me that people are very afraid that their jobs may be in jeopardy because of this shift in technology. I have asked many people why they are so afraid to adopt these new ideas, and one person recently responded, “I went to school for four years to learn how to be a writer, not so I can learn to edit video and make slide shows.” This is a pretty powerful statement in two ways. First, it shows the reluctance to change due to fear of the unknown. Second, it shows that students are not yet receiving the proper training and education that is needed to become a successful journalist. A journalism student who is not being taught how to write, edit video and create multimedia stories is like an orthopedic surgeon going to school and never learning how to operate on a knee.

Another trend that was talked about extensively over the week was media convergence. If the state of the industry dictates that journalists must be well versed in multimedia, then journalists should be working with the video staffs and audio staffs at their schools. There is no resource that is more valuable than your peers that often work in the same building, if not only on the same campus. These students know how to operate cameras, they know how to edit video and audio. Take advantage of their knowledge and skills, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can even assign stories to a “multimedia” staff that is comprised of writers, videographers and sound technicians and then let all departments involved use the piece for their own organization.

Basically, I am trying to say that the times are changing, and students need to recognize this and adapt to these changes. I realize that change is not always easy, but it is almost always necessary. So don’t be afraid to try something different. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As the entrepreneur in me would say, fail fast and fail often, because the faster you can make these changes in your organization, the faster you can gain an advantage over other college media organizations and be recognized as one of the leaders in your field.

As always, let me know what you think. Do you think that journalism as we know it is changing? If so, Have you adapted?