Megan Taylor

web developer, hack-n-slasher, freelancer, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

post

Journalism Curriculum

Somehow, not being in school anymore just makes me more interested in the evolution of curriculum at journalism schools.

No, it’s not a subconscious desire to teach. I’ve not the temperament for that.

But I’ve been collecting information about what’s being taught, perhaps in the hopes that they’ll teach something I don’t know, thereby giving me an excuse to go back to school.

My, that sounds arrogant. But I only mean that I’ve been through the traditional journalism curriculum, took some online media courses and taught myself a hell of a lot in my spare time.

Bryan Murley updated his syllabus for the multimedia course he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.

Most of the syllabus is the same as it was during the last semester, however, I’m spending much more time on audio and video, with lots of repetition and building upon core concepts.

Also, I should note that we’re using Final Cut Express this semester instead of iMovie. I’m done with iMovie until it is more stable and edits audio easier.

Andrew Dunn reports changes to the curriculum at the University of North Carolina, which now requires a class called “Audio-Video Information Gathering.” The UNC curriculum includes specializations choices of Multimedia and Electronic Communication (whatever that is).

Through University of Florida fact-finding professor Cory Armstrong, I found out about a new course at UNC: Public Affairs Reporting For New Media.

As near as I can tell, students in the course pick a topic for the semester and do some in-depth research, including multi-media elements, to develop a package.

The professor, Ryan Thornburg, is blogging about the class.

This is one that I’m really interested in, since I did something similar as an independent study with Professor Armstrong.

Fred Stutzman, also at UNC, has been teaching Online Social Networks for several semesters now.

This course is a primer on the study of online social networks. We will explore the theory, methods and findings of a growing literature on the topic. We will also explore applications and use cases, particularly in the context of education and library/information services. While online social networks are but a subset of social software, this course should provide you a strong set of fundamentals for exploring the multiple facets of our pervasive online sociality.

Mindy McAdams is teaching a new multimedia reporting class at UF as well as updating her Flash class (Advanced Online Media Production).

Students taking Multimedia Reporting will learn to:

  • Gather digital audio and upload it to a computer
  • Edit digital audio and produce an MP3 file
  • Edit, crop and resize photos; optimize photos for online use
  • Create an audio slideshow using Soundslides
  • Shoot simple video suitable for online distribution
  • Edit video with a simple editing program
  • Prepare video for online distribution

Lastly, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, changes are planned.

The new, proposed curriculum shift places a deeper, more thorough emphasis on awareness, understanding and application of online journalism skills and the training begins in the freshman year.

Stories CoJMC students write, photographs, advertising, marketing campaigns, video news reports and documentaries will be produced by hundreds of CoJMC students for the NewsNetNebraska Web site.

For those of us no longer in school and feeling left out, Dave Lee wrote about how journalists can continue their online education, well, online.

post

Innovative Coverage of the Inauguration

MediaShift Spotlight Innovation illustration by Omar Lee for MediaShift.Changing it up at Innovation Spotlight for the inauguration: Innovation in Inauguration Coverage.

I started collecting projects the week before the inauguration, and ended up with over 100 links (which I will share via Delicious when I get the chance).

This week, instead of focusing on one innovative journalism project, I’d like to highlight some of the many projects that came up covering Barack Obama’s inauguration.

The post got picked up by Google News:

googlenews

Be back to normal coverage next time. Still looking for awesome projects, so give me a heads up if you see something new and great!

post

Obamania

I’m confused. I feel out of the loop.

I get that Obama is the first black president.

I get that he represents a new era in our history.

I get that he represents changes that a lot of people want to see.

I get that his use of social media and technology during his campaign implies some very cool things during his presidency.

But why is everyone going apes**t!?

Why do I keep seeing articles about what the Obamas ate for lunch, or the kids’ first day at school or his physical appeal?

Why did a whole bunch of people stand around in the freezing cold to listen to other people talk, and musicians with numb hands try to play?

Why are there iPhone applications devoted to this man and his inauguration?

I remember Bush’s inauguration as a bad day, because my family disagrees with his beliefs and policies. I don’t remember Clinton’s. And before that, I wasn’t paying attention to anything other than my skinned knees.

But I’ve asked around, and no other inauguration has been compared to Woodstock.

I really don’t get it. Do you?

post

Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative

Working on my New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve been looking into several Bronx and NYC blogs.

The Bronx News Network recently posted a deadline extension for applications to something called the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative.

Whaaaat?!

The editors and reporters of the Norwood News and the Mount Hope Monitor are running a youth journalism program for Bronx high school students who are sophomores, juniors or seniors. – Bronx News Network

From the Norwood News site:

Students will learn the fundamentals of writing, reporting, and photojournalism through classroom instruction but, more importantly, through hands-on reporting in their own neighborhoods. We will take them on field trips – including the newsroom of a daily newspaper. They will learn about community activism and civic responsibility, how their neighborhoods work (or don’t), who has power, who doesn’t and why.

Best of all, student work will be published in a special youth supplement called Bronx Youth Heard, which will appear in the Norwood News, Mount Hope Monitor, and Highbridge Horizon, another community newspaper the west Bronx, giving Bronx youth a powerful voice in their own communities.

I was looking for ways to get involved in my community – and I may have found one. I’m planning to call the editors on Monday and see if I can be of use to them. Their site doesn’t mention teaching Web skills, so maybe that’s something I can contribute.

post

Vote for the change you want to see

The Ideas for Change in America competition is winding down, with today being the last day for voting.

The top 10 ideas will be presented to the Obama administration on Friday.

You can vote for 10 ideas

From the site:

The Ideas for Change in America competition was created in response to Barack Obama’s call for increased citizen involvement in government. The final round of voting began on January 5 and is comprised of the top 3 rated ideas from each of the 30 issues in the first round of the competition, which collectively received more than 250,000 votes.

The top 10 rated ideas from the final round will be presented to the Obama administration on January 16th at an event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, co-hosted by the Case Foundation. At the event we will also announce the launch of a national advocacy campaign behind each idea in collaboration with our nonprofit partners to turn each idea into actual policy.

post

The Bush-Cheney Legacy

A few days ago the Washington Post put together a section looking back on George W. Bush’s presidency.

It’s a bit soon, but given the zeitgeist, totally understandable. Hopefully as time goes by we’ll get more analysis of what the effects of the past 8 years really are.

The section puts me in mind of Jeff Jarvis’ “Topic Theory.” Whether we can call topics the “building block of journalism,” topic pages are an important way for users to keep track of a paper’s coverage, catch up on unfamiliar stories and gather context on an issue.

The Post’s Legacy page includes “video interviews with Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporters Bob Woodward and Barton Gellman, a timetable of significant news events and policy decisions, and opportunities for users to submit their own views.” (from the press release I forgot I had received) There are also graphs, articles, and photo galleries.

I have a complaint, though: clutter. There is so much stuffed into this one page, with no clear hierarchy. It’s just a bunch of stuff on a page, when it could have been designed to lead a reader through the events of the presidency.

post

News Web site user interfaces

Patrick Thornton wrote about user interfaces today, and how news Web sites are so loath to move away from an interface that mimicks the print product.

The last time I visited a news Web site, I was an employee of the paper working on code changes. I’m not counting clicking through to articles, but deliberately going to the home page of a site.

So Where Do I Get News?

I get my news from a couple of sources:

  • Google Reader, where I’m subscribed to over 400 blogs and news sites (including a personalized version of Google News), in addition to recieving shared content from all my friends
  • Twitter, where I follow over 400 users, mostly journalists
  • The AP Mobile News application on my phone. Great for the long commute to work.

Why Don’t I Go To News Sites?

Because they don’t give me what I want. Because I prefer serendipity.

I’m interested in a lot of things and a lot of places and a lot of people. There isn’t one place where I can get all the information I want. And I’m busy, I don’t have time to spend all day bouncing from site to site, hoping someone wrote or produced something I care about.

The other reason is this: A lot of people complain about the Internet being an echo chamber. To some degree, this sucks. I have to scroll through a bunch of work that is the same concept iterated over and over.

But, since I don’t visit news sites, I also don’t see the hierarchy that editors and readers have placed on certain stories. The echo chamber mitigates this problem for me, because I can gurantee that if something is important (or even important only to a certain group of people…people I chose to follow because I care about what’s important to them…) I’ll see it at least 5 times in Google Reader and another 20 on Twitter.

Is a different UI (user interface) really going to change my behavior? I’ll still have to visit multiple sites. The river of news (a la Facebook or Twitter) can get really annoying when I’m looking for something specific. For me, that only works seredipitously. And those cool mapping UI are just cluttery and hard to focus on. To be honest, if I’m looking for articles on a specific topic, I’ll just do a Google search.

Thornton is right, though: news Web sites need to stop emulating print. But they need to do it in a way that actually helps the users. We’ve learned certain behaviors when looking for content online. There are rules that we expect Web sites to follow, and when those are bent too much, we get frustrated. Not good for news sites.

So the question is, without breaking basic UI rules or being gimmicky, how should news sites be designed differently?

Edit: Check out the comments for a discussion between Aron Pilhofer and myself about user interface vs. user interaction.

post

New Year’s Resolutions: Surviving in the Real World

Even though I graduated from college in May, I have trouble with the concept of not being in school. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but I love school, and I miss all the things that come with it: being a part of a community, constantly learning new things, the surety of having something to work toward for the next few years.

Obviously, these are all part of living in the real world as well, but they seem harder and less tangible. I’ve lived in the Bronx for three months now, and I still only know the building super and the guy at the convenience store down the street. I’m so busy trying to make rent that I’m not learning the way I was in school. Sure, I learn new things on the job, but it’s very different. As for goals to work toward, instead of aiming for a degree I know I can get, I’m working toward a career in an industry that’s too busy trying to land on its feet to notice my efforts.

There’s no despair in this. Just readjustment. And resolutions.

I don’t need to be in school or have my dream job to learn new things or to be a journalist. I just have to carve out the time to do what needs doing.

So here’s a list of things I want to learn or do, regardless of jobs.

  1. Formally learn Javascript. I have some experience, but mostly in the vein of searching for the code that will do what I want, and implementing it. I’d like to be able to write a little on my own.
  2. Learn PHP. Like Javascript, I know quite a bit just from fiddling with websites (especially WordPress). But I’d like the formal knowledge that would allow me to manipulate databases without have to do a Google search every ten minutes.
  3. Write. I recently signed up at BrightHub, a science and technology site. I’d like to write at least one article a week. In addition, I want to try some pitching for publications. I think that my deficiency in published writing (due to a proficiency in multimedia and programming) has been detrimental to my career goals.
  4. Produce multimedia and web development projects. I want to keep my skills fresh, even if I’m not using them in day-to-day work. So each month I’ll come up some sort of project to work on, be it video, photography, data analysis…just something to keep me from getting rusty.
  5. Find a way to participate in my new community. I’ve been poking around community boards for the Bronx, and have also found some interesting groups in Manhattan. I want to get involved. There are also a few online communities that I’m a part of that I’d like to be more involved in.

I think these are good ways to be a journalist without the benefits of working for a publication. I’m still busting my butt to get a job in news, but until then, this is a good simulation.

What else can I do to be a journalist without the framework? What tips or advice can you give me for fulfilling these resolutions?