Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Perennial debate - the future journalist

It comes back every year, sometimes prompted by educationist and academics and at times by those on the receiving end i.e. the students.

We've two different Masters strands where I lecture. Call it the domestic and International.

Those on the domestic stream may well find themselves in structured newsrooms, where being an online journalist is tempered by the rigours of the journalism as it is executed online.

That is short sentences, active voice, pyramidal, taut grammar, knowing where to eke out the story from the verbiage of PR bumf, or plainly knowing how to fact gather first hand for the news construct.

International students however face a different prospect. If you're from Uganda, knowing all the above is a pre-requesite, but there's a high chance that added skills in CSS, Flash, api's, raw html, and Java will be of huge use.

Yes, you can still buy of the shelf any number of templates, but understanding the dynamics of the interstitials of online may provide you with a more rounded view of creating a site from the get-go, or even becoming an exec, passing down those skills.

I have see it happen here many times and several of the international students have gone back to run news sites as deputy eds or other senior posts.

Some have even set up their own ventures and doing well.

What are you?
A rhetorical statement! Are we trying to make designers out of them? No! They are journalists first and foremost, but girdled with a panoramic understanding of the online industry.

An understanding of the technical know how which inputs into Paul Bradshaw's illustrated news diamond, keying the life cycle of the news story.

From twitter, to blog, to article, analyses, context, interactivity, and databases.

At the very least it's not about immersing oneself in the code, but knowing how each one works with the other.

Twitter the link to the blog, whilst the VJ piece is on its way to be embedded in the minted article. The result of all this is a language of may tongues, which for the exuberants allows them to converse with any number of tech/journos along the new cycle.

"Sorry! You should be using ems and that relative link is being harvested by a robot unless you make is absolute and if you're not using the H1 tag you're losing out on valuable google juice"

Yep it's all gibberish.

The story of a domestic Masters journalist is a salutary tale to what might come, when you dip you toes a little more into the gubbings of the online world.

She was at Sky News on work placement and a problem occurred in the online section she was working in. Soon she cranked her head over as few tried to sort out the problem and noticed a stray root folder. "It's the root folder", folklore now has it.

The last time I heard she was still working at Sky.

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