Teaching journalism in the tech age
13 August 2010
Professor Jay Rosen, the New York writer, media critic and journalism teacher, visited the Department of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney yesterday to address Australian media educators about teaching journalism "in a time of disruptive technology".
Audience members included Lawrie Zion, from La Trobe University and social media and journalism educator Julie Possetti from University of Canberra.
Professor Rosen created the "citizen-powered" presidential campaign news project "Off the Bus", and teaches journalism at New York University. He blogs at PressThink, an influential site about journalism and "its ordeals".
He was in Sydney to appear at the Walkley Foundation's Media Conference, which ran this week and focussed to a large extent on new media and the future of journalism within it.
In his talk, Professor Rosen said the field of journalism studies was "in crisis" and needed new approaches to journalism education that went beyond practitioner-led defense of traditional standards or theoretical analysis or critique.
To address this crisis, his innovative NYU Masters program, Studio 20, focuses on adapting journalism to the web. This year the program has worked in collaboration with The New York Times to produce a collaborative news site called The Local: East Village.
Studio 20 seeks to push the field of journalism forward by realising the possibilities of the interactive, multimedia world of the internet and to solve the limitations of teaching journalism in the traditional model - that being from a single platform such as newspaper, magazine, radio or television.
Fiona Martin, a lecturer from the Department of Media and Communications, said journalism schools face major problems in the face of rapid technological changes.
"The major problem is that the technologies and the approaches to doing journalism online change so fast.
"This poses a major problem for us as educators in terms of managing the expectations of students. Students expect to be work ready and to know the technologies and standards that are going to be used in the workplace.
"But there are so many tools that could be applied to journalism, media research and communication - blogging tools like Wordpress and Twitter, social networking tools like Facebook and Linkedin. And then there are all the audio visual and content sharing tools - it's an extraordinary amount to get across, let alone understand how they can best be used."
"What I do to get around the problem of rapid change is teach what I call 'technacy', which is the capacity to problem-solve using appropriate technologies in any given context.
"This means instead of teaching set tools and practices, I teach them how to research and experiment with new media services and to share ideas about their discoveries.
Dr Martin said Jay Rosen's studio model has a similar intent, engaging students in problem solving projects with media publishing outcomes.
"In these ways journalism students aren't just replicating traditional practices - they can get used to teaching themselves new media tools and trying out new ways of reporting. Most importantly they learn to collaborate with others - including their audiences - to tell stories."
Rosen raised a number of points about changing teaching models and about changing the ways we look at ethics and provoked an ongoing discussion.
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