As we change journalism education, we need to study journalism learners

After years of exhortation and industry convulsions, journalism education is changing. The argument for infusing digital  media education – even programming — into the journalism curriculum is over. The questions are mostly logistical – what type, in what sequence, how much and to what ends? Driven largely by business needs, college newspapers are becoming sites of experimentation with new business and management models. Professional news organizations are expanding their relationships with journalism schools beyond their traditional roles as providers of internships and first employers. In some cases, they are collaborating on beat coverage and special investigations. In at least one instance, the local professional news outlets have physically moved on campus.

At the graduate level, Medill’s Innovation program helped spawn Narrative Science, a company that programs robots to generate stories. We faculty at small programs, who have thinking through what these changes mean for institutions like ours, finally have our own journal, Teaching Journalism and Mass Communications. The 2013 edition of Georgia Tech’s groundbreaking Computation + Journalism Symposium will likely drive the conversation even further.

All signs of progress, but something important is being lost amid the frenzy.

As former President George W. Bush famously put it, “Rarely is the question asked, ‘Is our children learning?'” Mindy McAdams speaks for many of us who have spent years looking for ways to infuse digital skills into the journalism curriculum:

“We can offer a course that focuses on Web technologies — HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc. But there is no data journalism in that class. And a lot of the students are going to hate typing those little brackets and so on. They’ll be so happy when that course is done and they never have to do that again.

“Moreover, they won’t practice what they learned, and very soon, they will forget all of it.

“We can offer a course about scraping and doing stuff with large data sets. We can teach students how to find stories in data. Students who like this, who learn how to do it and want to continue doing it, are probably among those most likely to get a journalism job. Like the Web technologies course, though, this is a class that many students will either avoid like the plague or take and then count the minutes until it’s over.”

Please, please read the whole post. She points to a real challenge that we haven’t yet cracked: how to engage students who think that journalism is about writing, not math or technology. Students who have convinced themselves that writing is something they are inherently “good” at, while math and tech are something they are inherently “bad” at. Students who don’t see why they need to understand html when they can just use a wysiwyg platform to build a website.

And my colleague and friend Michelle Johnson adds another layer: too often, the students who are least successful in adapting to journalism’s digital evolution are students of color, apparently another manifestation of the racial achievement gap. She writes:

“[F]or the past 20 years, I’ve read literally hundreds of applications for journalism training programs and scholarships, as well as for admission to journalism school. And sadly, I’m seeing some troubling signs.
“This isn’t just hand-wringing about a decline in writing skills among young people with short attention spans who communicate via texting abbreviations — I’ve noticed that among all the students.
“Simply put, I’m seeing that many of the students of color lack experience with the tools and technologies that will be fundamental to journalism innovation going forward. And this comes at a time when funding for training programs for students of color has shrunk, along with the bottom lines of the news industry and professional associations.”

These are exactly the concerns that keep me awake at night, even as I champion interactive journalism as a way of bringing members of under-represented groups into computing fields. (I’d also add working-class students to Michelle’s list, by the way.)

I would submit that amid our frenzy to learn and then incorporate all the skills that our graduates need into our curricula, we need a better understanding of what students absorb, and what affects their sense of self-efficacy as they confront the unexpected skills and content we are asking them to learn. That’s part of what I’m hoping to better understand with the new research project that I’ve embarked upon with Dr. S. Monisha Pulimood, of TCNJ’s Computer Science Department. The formal title is TUES: Collaborating Across Boundaries to Engage Undergraduates in Computational Thinking.(NSF Award #1141170). As we state in our abstract:

“To adequately prepare a workforce for the changing economic and global landscape, the project is developing a model that enables students with diverse perspectives and disciplinary backgrounds to learn how to collaborate and integrate concepts from their respective fields to develop technology-based solutions for complex real-world problems.”

It’s a tall order that we’ve set ourselves, and we are grateful to have Diane Bates, our independent evaluator, on board to help us assess what we are doing.

I’ll share more specific information about our project as it develops, but for now, I want to share some specific questions that I’m working through about integrating computational thinking and integrate it into journalism classes.

What’s the right learning environment to support computational thinking in journalism?  One of the posts that I wrote for a 2010 series about my own early exposure to skills that are currently classed as computational thinking began with this prologue:

“There are, at least, two approaches to education: the mimetic approach and the mathetic approach. The mimetic approach emphasizes memorization and drill exercises and is most efficient in inculcating facts and developing basic skills [Gar89, p. 6]. The mathetic approach stresses learning by doing and self exploration; it encourages independent and creative thinking [Pap80, p. 120]. In the mimetic framework, creativity comes after the mastery of basic skills. On the other hand, proponents of the mathetic school believe that self discovery is the best, if not the only, way to learn…”

Educational Outlook,”

Sugih Jamin, Associate Professor, EECS, University of Michigan

Whether taught in a classroom or newsroom, journalism education tends to be mimetic, while approaches to engaging novices in computing tend to be mathetic. We introduce students to specific routines and rigors of reporting, emphasizing adherence to rules of attribution, AP style, divisions of genre and structure (hard news, features, inverted pyramids, nut grafs, and so on.)  We stress the importance of getting the story right the first time, and then admit that there will likely be corrections and emendations as a breaking news story develops. We do these things for good reason: flubbing the fundamentals can not only get a reporter fired, it can lead to lawsuits, or in extreme cases, endanger innocent lives and reputations. Consequently, journalism students and professionals learn to think of every thing they do in highly instrumental terms, especially when it comes to learning what they need to know to ensure that they will get or keep a job.

By contrast, programming environments for novices such as Scratch or Alice are very successful at making introductory programming concepts more accessible. However, their strategy for engaging learners emphasizes play in ways that can be off-putting to journalism students who feel a need to quickly learn how to assemble a professional product. In the past, I’ve used Scratch in two ways – as a first step in learning Flash (something I’ve abandoned since Adobe made Mindy McAdams’ Flash Journalism text obsolete, and experts such as Mark  Luckie began pooh-poohing it as an important skill for journalists.) I’ve had some success teaching Scratch in game design courses, and I may think about using Alice for this purpose in the future, since its most recent iteration is specifically designed to give students a leg up Java, and that can be useful to aspiring app developers.

Do we need a journalism-specific programming environment to engage novice journalism students?

There are other, more mimetic, web-based learning environments for learning to code, such as Udacity.com’s CS `101 course, which focuses on Python and teaches students how to build a web scraper. There is an appeal to that approach because it has students build something that has obvious practical use in journalism. However, that course is arguably vulnerable to the criticism made by Bret Victor of platforms such as Khan Academy and CodeAcademy – that is, that they emphasize rote skills, while programming is “a way of thinking.”

Might it make sense to create a hybrid learning environment that combines the low barriers to entry of Scratch or Alice, with the goal orientation of something like Udacity? Will we begin to succeed at teaching programming as a way of thinking if we can more closely articulate between these learning environments and our broader journalism education curricula? (Here I am speaking of curricula not only for the classroom, but also for professional training.) Will novice programmer journalists be more motivated to learn in an environment where they can see direct connections between what their growing computing knowledge, the specific journalism artifacts they are learning to create, and the marketable skills they are developing? If so, what is the best way to create these linkages?

Is learning scripting really a gateway to computational thinking? The notion that journalism students should learn to “code” has gained increasing acceptance, but what that means and how one learns to do it are not universally understood. For several years, I’ve taken a position similar to the one that Miranda Mulligan took in a September 5, 2012 essay for NiemanLab:

I am not arguing that every single writer/editor/publisher who learns some programming should end up becoming a software engineer or a refined web designer. The end goal here is not programming fluency. However, there’s a lot of value in understanding how browsers read and render our stories. Reporting and writing a story, writing some code (HTML, CSS, Javascript), and programming complex applications and services are all collections of skills. A fundamental knowledge of code allows for:

  • More significant conversations about digital presentation, ultimately leading to better, more meaningful, online storytelling. Understanding your medium makes you better at your craft.
  • Deeper thought and understanding of data. Learning more about what goes into writing and programming software teaches you to think in terms of abstractions, functions, parameters, components, frameworks, object classes, templates, and more.

What Mulligan is referring to here as code (html, css, javascript – or more likely, jquery) is not programming, but web scripting, and as Mindy McAdams noted earlier, doesn’t get students digging into data. Having taught html and css for several years in our Writing for Interactive Multimedia class, my TCNJ colleagues and I can attest to all of the challenges that McAdams cites.

But there may be an additional unexamined assumption here, that learning scripting leads to the kind of computational fluency that, as Mulligan puts it, “teaches you to think in terms of abstractions, functions, parameters, components…”  I would submit that we need data to support this hypothesis. I certainly agree with her intuitively, but we need to know. These are some of the things we hope to learn in our research project, but there is lots of good work to be done to understand what, if any correlations exist between learning to script and learning to think computationally about the creation of journalism artifacts.

What do we know about the success of CAR courses that teach Excel,  SPSS, Access and SQL? The one place in the journalism curriculum that has come closest to teaching something like computational thinking has been in Computer Assisted Reporting classes (which these days, of course, is arguably a redundant term.)  A syllabus repository for some of these courses is here. We’ve had a required CAR course at TCNJ for 10 years. Many of these classes required that students minimally learn to use Microsoft Excel and Access (something I required when I taught it in the early 2000s). Some also incorporated SPSS and SQL. I don’t know of anyone who has studied these courses to assess the degree to which they affect students’ computing efficacy, programming skill, or acquisition of computational thinking concepts such as abstraction, decomposition, data structures, etc.

We could also use some research on the viability of such classes as points of articulation with emerging computational journalism curricula in computer science. One hopeful example is the work done by my TCNJ colleagues Donna Shaw and Emilie Lounsberry on the development of a database manager, GUMSHOE, that tracked the  disposition of gun-related arrests through the Philadelphia courts, ultimately contributing to an award winning story package on endemic problems in the Philadelphia court system.

These are just some of the questions that I think could lead to fruitful education research. I have others, such as questions about the possible role of stereotype threat on the achievement gap issues that Michelle Johnson cited, and whether learning science might help us better illuminate the real gaps in understanding and engagement that have many of us classroom teachers worried. As I’ve learned from talking to learning scientist  Deborah Tatar, making assumptions about why whole groups of people aren’t grasping particular concepts is often a big mistake.

Much, much more to be learned. I’m hoping that what has been, until now, an understandably ad hoc and organic effort develops into an area of systematic study.

On teaching game design in a journalism course, part 2

In my last post on the newsgames course I will be teaching this fall, I began to discuss how the need to respect the journalistic intent of a newsgame translates into requirements and constraints upon the game’s design and production. In this post, I want to  delve into that topic more deeply, using principles outlined in Tracy Fullerton’s Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Designing Innovative Games, and applying those principles to a game that I consider particularly successful, MSNBC’s “Can You Spot the Threats?”  game about the challenges of screening airport baggage.  Finally, I will discuss questions that I will raise with my students about my partially finished “Food Stamps Game,” which I introduced in the last post. The intent of the Food Stamps Game is to simulate the experience of trying to buy a week’s worth of groceries on a $30 budget, about average in terms of what states allow a single adult participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which is the current name for Food Stamps. (Eligibility for benefits and benefit levels vary, and are based on complex criteria. See references on benefits at the end of this post.)

Fullerton defines a game as:

  • A closed formal system that
  • Engages players in structured conflict and
  • Resolves its uncertainty in unequal outcomse (p, 43)
MSNBC's game about airport baggage screening successfully incorporates dramatic and formal elements.

Here, an aside: It should be noted that Fullerton’s definition of a game is at slight variance with that employed by the authors of the other text that I plan to use in the course, Newsgames: Journalism at Play, which I discussed in the previous post. The Newgames text considers animated infographics as games, where as Fullerton is more restrictive. I bring this up because this is an interdisciplinary class in which some of the students are already familiar with Fullerton;s formulations. I may need to take these differing perspectives into account in order to build a common intellectual climate within the class.

Part of the value of Fullerton’s definition is that she breaks it down into components that can be understood as operational requirements.  Games have what Fullerton describes as formal elements (such as rules, playing pieces, boundaries and outcomes), dramatic elements (premise, setting, character and a dramatic arc), and system dynamics (the way the formal and dramatic elements interact). Please note that Fullerton’s definition of these categories is more extensive than I have presented here. This list is only  for the sake of illustration and discussion.

Applying Fullerton’s rubric to MSNBC’s “Can You Spot the Threats” game helps us to understand more about her categories, as well as the characteristics of a successful simulation-type game. The game starts with ominous music and a voiceover narration about the ways in which airport baggage screening procedures changed in the United States after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Then you are told that you are about to experience what it’s like to screen baggage for two minutes. A series of actual images of luggage generated by screening equipment scrolls across the screen, and you have to pick out the bags most likely to contain guns, knives or explosives. However, the pictures are frustratingly blurry and vague, as can be seen above. You can stop an image, zoom in, and change the black-and-white image to color, but the images are still non-descript. Take too long, and the passenger murmuring in the background rises to a fever pitch. Move too quickly, and it’s likely that something dangerous will slip through. At the end of two minutes, you get a score based on the number of bags screened, the number of dangerous bags detected, the number missed, and a score.

In Fullerton’s parlance, there are formal elements – rules, resources (the bags, the controls), boundaries (the time limit, for example) and outcomes. There is a real-world premise, a story in with characters (you, the baggage screener, and the passengers),  a setting, and a simple dramatic arc. The flash program functions efficiently, and the interface is clean.

“Can You Spot the Threats?” is one of the most effective newsgames I’ve seen, both When I had a class of about 24 students play this game in 2003, they said they gained a new appreciation for the difficulty of the baggage-screener’s job, and motivated them to read the accompanying web feature article. My campus is an hour’s train ride from Ground Zero, and the 9/11 attacks were still evoked a visceral emotional response from my students. They said they found it easy to accept the game’s premise, and they felt anxious as the blurry images rolled across the screen and passengers began to complain that they might miss their planes.

These are some of the ways in which the Food Stamps game is unfinished and needs revision.  As some test users report, the boundaries of the game aren’t always clear – for example, a script that should come up when a buyer runs out of money doesn’t yet work properly. There aren’t enough dramatic elements and the system dynamics could use some work. These will be some of the things that will be fodder for discussion with students in the fall.

Arguably, the flaws in this game, and the ability to download and remix the code in Scratch, makes the Food Stamps game useful as a tool for highlighting this game and its design process as an example of computational thinking. I will elaborate on that in the next post.


Endnotes

References on benefits. For more information on how states calculate Food Stamp benefits, please see examples below:

  1. USDA SNAP Eligibility page
  2. Texas: Food Stamp Benefit Estimator
  3. Illinois: DHS Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  4. MassLegal Services. 2011 Food Stamp Advocacy Guide Part III. Eligibility
  5. Hawaii Financial  and SNAP Benefits RIghts and Responsibilities
  6. Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services: Economic Stability Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  7. South Carolina Department of Social Services SNAP Benefit Calculator
  8. 2007 Congressional Food Stamp Challenge
  9. US Food Policy “Living on a Food Stamp Budget” (This is the specific source of my $30/week figure.

Course syllabus as of July 13, 2001

     

    Mrs. Jefferson’s “Sympathetic Touch” Meets Mrs. Masterman’s Philanthropy

    The Re-education of Me Table of Contents

    1. What we investigate is linked to who we are
    2. The Me nobody knew then
    3. Mrs. Jefferson’s “Sympathetic Touch” meets Mrs. Masterman’s Philanthropy
    4. Discovering Masterman, discovering myself
    5. The electronic music lab at Masterman School
    6. The Interactive Journalism Institute for Middle Schoolers and the quest for computing diversity

    “The proper education of any people includes sympathetic touch between teacher and pupil, knowledge on the part of the teacher, not simply of the individual taught, but of his surroundings and background, and the history of his class and group; and contact between pupils, and between teachers and pupil, on the basis of social equality, as will increase this sympathy and knowledge; facilities for education, equipment and housing, and the promotion of such social and extra-curricular activities as will tend to induct the child into life.”

    WEB Du Bois

    Does the Negro Need Separate Schools?” (1935)

     

    One day during second grade at Kearny Elementary School, I was called out of class to go to the office. This would have been sometime during the 1964-5 school year.  I was introduced to a white man in a dark suit and told to sit at at table. I don’t remember what the man looked like or what he said – only that he gave some games to play and puzzles to complete. Some of them were on paper, and others involved blocks and other manipulatives. I think it was afterward that my parents told me that I had been given an IQ test, that I had scored well, and that I was now being placed on the waiting list for admission to a special school called Masterman. Masterman was described to me as a special school for children like me – children who liked to think, read and ask questions about the world. While the previous post in this series was intended as a broad sketch of those factors in my early life that laid the groundwork for my interest in writing, this post focuses more on the barriers to equal educational opportunity that existed in Philadelphia in the early 1960s, and reflects on one particular intervention in my own early schooling that I suspect was crucial to my future academic progress.

    At the time that my entry into Julia Reynolds Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School was first discussed, the school was only five years old. It was named for the  founder and first leader of the Philadelphia Home and School Council,  and according to a brief New York Times article announcing her death in 1958, she left the School District of Philadelphia a $10,000 trust fund “to help bright pupils finish high school.” Masterman School opened its doors the next year. (Masterman obit)

    Mrs. Masterman’s gift appears to have been made necessary in part because of the miserliness of Add Anderson, the District’s business manager from the 1920s until 1962. Reportedly, Anderson’s first priority was to keep taxes down, and as a result, schools throughout the city were poorly staffed and maintained. More than one scholar quoted Peter Binzen’s description of Anderson as, “a penny pincher all his life…a ruthless man filled with contempt for ‘educators.'” Anderson presided over the school district at a time when the number of black children in the district increased substantially because of the Great Migration. Wealthier whites abandoned the schools and the city in droves, and white working-class ethnics were made to feel as if they had been left holding the bag, fomenting a resentment that would spark the rise of tough cop mayor Frank Rizzo.

    Structural disparities.Although the district schools had been legally integrated since since 1881, they were functionally segregated: black students were consistently assigned to the most dilapidated schools and fewer resources were directed to those schools. Tracking systems within schools led to black students being disproportionately assigned to “RE” (retarded educable) classes. (References) Scholar Lisa Levenstein recalls a 1960 Philadelphia Bulletin series entitled, “The Slow Learners,”  in which schools superintendent Allen Wetter blamed black children for their plight, calling the children of the Great Migration “culturally deprived slow learners.” The series referred to these “slow learners” as “unlovable characters” responsible for “a tragic deterioration of our schools.” (Levenstein)

    In December, 1966, when I was in fourth grade, change came to the Philadelphia schools in the form of a new superintendent named Dr. Mark R. Shedd. According to a New York Times story announcing his appointment, (Reference) Shedd was the 40-year-old Harvard-trained superintendent of the Englewood, New Jersey public schools. He had won praise for negotiating the integration of the public schools there after years of sit-ins and marches. Shedd would bring experimentation to the Philadelphia schools, and become an advocate for disadvantaged students.

    Ever since the release of the 1966 study on Equality of Educational Opportunity by sociologist James Coleman, education researchers have been debating the degree to which these kinds of racial disparate investments and attitudes matter. Coleman’s study pioneered the use of regression analysis of large-scale data sets in order to understand the multiplicity of factors that affect school performance. Coleman found family dynamics and the opportunity to attend an integrated school were stronger determinants of success for students of lower socio-economic status than the state of school facilities or teacher training.   Subsequent analysis of the data from that study, as well as subsequent research,  yielded more nuanced conclusions. Among those conclusions was the view that smaller classes (which presumably allow more teacher attention to students) and particular kinds of resource investments can positively affect educational outcomes, especially for African American children. I am reminded of this as I recall a small intervention by one of my teachers at Kearny that was, I suspect, crucial to my subsequent academic success. It was the moment that I still recall with some emotion, nearly half a century later.

    Mrs. Jefferson’s “sympathetic touch”

    My recollection was that I was enthusiastic about the idea of going to a new school. Although I had warm memories of first grade at Kearny, by second grade I was already feeling out of place. I had started first grade in Mrs. Hayes’ class, where I remembered a lot of picture books and finger painting. After a few weeks, I was moved down the hall to Mrs. Marie Jefferson’s class, where the children were already reading Dick and Jane books. I could sound out letters, but I did not know how to read words yet. (Sonia Manzano, the actress and writer who plays the character Maria on Sesame Street, bears such an uncanny and poignant resemblance to Mrs. Jefferson as I remember her.)

    Seeing my plight, Mrs. Jefferson had me come to her desk at the back of the room when the other children were reading silently. She sat me on her lap, opened a Dick and Jane book, and asked me to read to her. I told her I could only sound out letters. She asked me to do that and pointed to a word. “O-H,” I said. “Not ‘o-h,'” she responded. “Oh. The “H” is silent.” We “read” together in this way for a little while longer, and I went back to my seat with the feeling that I had been let in on an incredible mystery.

    After that, there was daily reading at home,  the arrival of a set of Britannica Junior Encyclopedias, and regular exposure to children’s literature alongside the sessions spent reading Shakespeare and Plato aloud with my father. (A conversation with my father about those sessions is forthcoming. Suffice to say that it bore many similarities to Chicago educator Marva Collins’ use of the the Socratic method in urban classrooms.)

    So while I attended a school where teachers could give us little more than love, my father and stepmother created an incredibly rich intellectual environment for me. These were the things that, in retrospect, probably prepared me academically for Masterman, even as they made me the odd child out at school. For me, going to Masterman promised that I would finally find other kids like me. Educator Salome Thomas-El, who attended Masterman for 5-8 grade in the late 1970s, recalls his own sense of dislocation as he tried to negotiate between the culture at Masterman and that of his inner-city neighborhood:

    “I never felt that I was as good as many of my [Masterman] peers, or that I belonged there, or that I was part of [Masterman.]…The kids I knew and liked were still back in the inner-city.

    “Each school day, as they went in one direction, I took the bus and went a different way. By my second year at Masterman, I felt strange. I didn’t feel comfortable at Masterman, and yet I no longer belonged with my old friends.” (Thomas-El)

    This feeling of dislocation strikes me as a  natural companion for child sent on a journey across the boundaries inscribed by race, class, gender, age and geography – what the late newspaper publisher Robert Maynard called the “fault lines” of  American culture.  It was a journey made by thousands of black children between the 1950 and 1970s  – children integrating schools with or without federal troops, court orders, or civil rights marches. We did not face dogs, hoses or jeering crowds as we entered schools such as Masterman, and except for one teacher, I don’t recall any instances of racism there, but we were crossing barriers nonetheless. Masterman, and later, Girls’ High, would also teach me that black children weren’t the only ones facing obstacles to academic achievement. It was there that I would begin to be introduced to the frustrations experienced by the white ethnic families in Philadelphia who had, they thought, played by the rules of immigration and assimilation only to see those rules change overnight.

    What I would come to understand in later years is that Masterman not only afforded me an opportunity for a superior education – it was an opportunity to be socialized into an intellectual community. Without the sympathetic touch of Mrs. Jefferson and her colleagues at Kearny, and the reinforcement I received at home, it’s very possible that it’s an opportunity that I would have wasted.


    Endnotes

    1. “Mrs. John Masterman.” New York Times (1923-Current file); Mar 8, 1958; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2007) pg. 17
    2. Sources for Peter Binzen’s description of Add Anderson and racial disparities in the Philadelphia school district: Paul Lyons, The people of this generation: The rise and fall of the New Left in Philadelphia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania press, 2003. p. 15; and Lisa Levenstein, A Movement Without Marches: African American Women and the Politics of Poverty in Postwar Philadelphia UNC Press, April, 2009. p. 125. Levenstein details the policies that shunted black students into inferior schools, and the scapegoating of black families for the subsequent poor performance of black students on pages 126-137.
    3. Levenstein, p. 137
    4. Equality of Educational Opportunity: A 40-Year Retrospective
      Adam Gamoran and Daniel A. Long, WCER Working Paper No. 2006-9 December 2006, 27 p.
    5. Thomas-El, Salome and Cecil Murphrey. I Choose to Stay: A Black Teacher Refuses to Desert the Inner City. New York: Kensington Publishing. 2004, p. 26
    6. “Englewood Educator Named Head of Philadelphia Schools.” New York Times, Dec. 1, 1966. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2007)
      pg. 77

    How should journalism educators teach and study social media?

    recent blog post by Vadim Lavrusik called upon journalism educators to make social media and online community engagement a stronger part of their curricula:

    “[T]here are three components I think that are still largely missing from most journalism curricula today that could help in user engagement: learning the social media tools available for journalists to engage the audience, an understanding of what it means to cultivate community, and lastly a negative stigma to the use of data and analytics.”

    The post elicited several favorable comments from journalism students, instructors and practitioners associated with institutions around the country, including a link to this thoughtful advice about how journalism education needs to change. Amen to all of it, I say. Journalists need to know how, when and whether to blog, twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, tag, make and use widgets, link strategically, build and use wikis, craft SEO-friendly content and understand analytics. (Just to be clear, references to Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook have more to do with the need for facility with sites that function in this way, not with fealty to those particular brands.)

    However, we need to be more systematic in thinking about how we approach this subject as a matter of teaching, research and practice.  One can learn the basics of using particular blogging and social media tools in a workshop. A college-level exploration of the design, disseminating and evaluation of social media content should not only be about practices, but also about principles. Journalism curricula need to reflect upon and synthesize emerging insights from a range of disciplines that can inform social media practices and standards for communications professionals.

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