Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

CoJ: The changing role of universities for the information needs of a community

This is a post for the Carnival of Journalism, a group of journalism bloggers who write each month about a topic. This month’s topic:

The changing role of Universities for the information needs of a community: One of the Knight Commission‘s recommendations is to “Increase the role of higher education…as hubs of journalistic activity.” Another is to “integrate digital and media literacy as critical elements for education at all levels through collaboration among federal, state, and local education officials.”
Okay – great recommendations. But how do we actually make it happen? What does this look like? What University programs are doing it right? What can be improved and what would be your ideal scenario? Or is this recommendation wrong to begin with? No box here to write inside of.

I really like the idea that universities, especially public schools, should provide their communities (the ones they are in, not just the ones built inside them) with the information, tools and support to improve the flow, analysis and consumption of information.

A few ideas for how this could happen:

What if the school news outlets were open to anyone in the community who wanted to participate? Much like the idea of the newsroom cafe. Since these are teaching systems as much as they are journalistic endeavors, someone from the outside could easily participate. Most student-run news organizations within universities are open only to students, which limits both the quantity and quality of output.

I would really like to see a lot more interdisciplinary work being done. Collaboration between university departments can only benefit everyone, from professors to students to the community. Journalism departments should team up with computer science, English, creative writing, political science, etc.

Maybe a sidenote: What if student journalists each had a beat within the university – a department. Not only would they learn about what different departments are up to, but they could serve as ambassadors between departments to encourage collaboration.

A more radical idea, stolen from Jay Rosen and Dave Winer‘s Rebooting the News podcast: make journalism a required university course. Everyone should know and use the basic tenants of journalism, and a community could not be better served than by having more “trained” journalists. I think just one class could create a vastly improved army of citizen journalists.

Another idea plucked from the mind of Dave Winer: Universities should provide a safeguard for materials published online after the author’s death. An ueber-Internet Archive.

Since I’m writing this right before the deadline, that’s all I’ve got for now. Please help me flesh these ideas out in the comments, or suggest your own, or tell me I’m way off the mark.

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