Not feeding the snail…

I read Mindy McAdams and at times worship at her alter. She embodies the new journalism, blending technology with all that is good from traditional journalism. Sound like a buncha BS? I’m a feeder…I train (or attempt to train) students who will feed into local community colleges or four year colleges like hers. She has a lot to say about the state of journalism education in this post.

The industry itself has been shockingly slow to adapt, and even today, many experienced journalists will admit they “don’t get it” vis-à-vis online and are struggling to educate themselves.
You might say the journalism educators ought to be one step ahead of the profession. There’s merit to that idea, but here is a reality check: For six years I sat in a room with my professor colleagues and members of our advisory board — editors and even some publishers of some of the top newspapers in our state — when they came to advise us about what’s going on in newsrooms and what we ought to be teaching the students.

Her reality check? The advisory board didn’t think online was important for six years…then suddenly changed their tune as both they and the college faced the reality that online was not only important – but it was already being consumed by increasing numbers of the audience. Even today educators are trying to catch up and stay at least even with the curve of teaching technology and being able to afford it.

My reality check is pretty much the same. I’m woefully lacking in skills in some areas (I’m a department of one) and have a minuscule budget. Plus, my school district does not allow easy online access to information (I’ve been refused access to sites because they are educaitonal) – don’t even think about creating blogs or communicating online. The snail I’m stuck with is HUGE and SLOW and TRADITIONAL. In a situation like this, how can educators even begin to catch up with industry requirements?

But there is hope. The occassional administrator and IT person who sympathizes and is willing to work with me. The fact that kids are doing stuff on their own – posting videos and communicating online. I want to feed my kids enough so they can enter college with a rudimentary understanding of online journalism. I definitely don’t want to feed the snail that is slowing our progress…if possible I’d like to smash the damn thing to keep it from sliming the future (or perhaps boil it and serve it in a light butter and garlic sauce). Mindy, I feel your pain – just hope that high school educators can keep up with you. There’s a lot to learn and high schools should at least send you students with a solid platform you can build from.

While the struggle progresses, the students still have to sign up for courses, accumulate credits, learn how to report and how to write like a journalist, learn ethics and law, find internships, work for the student newspaper and the radio and TV stations in the college, and graduate.
The skills ought to be taught in every single class, in every single course, right now. There’s no denying that. It’s just that getting it done takes a heck of a lot longer than “getting it.”

Thanks for letting us know we’re not alone in the struggle.

2 thoughts on “Not feeding the snail…

  1. Hey, Cyndy, thank you for reading. Everybody faces challenges as technology changes — and as audiences change with it. I think a key is to keep reminding the students what they do every day — making them self-aware. Who makes that video game, and how do they make it? Who made Facebook, and what inspired him? How did Wikipedia get built, and why? Okay, so what kind of job market do you think is out there, kiddo? What do you do all day? What do your friends do? Look behind the scenes and figure out what the jobs are back there, behind the entertainment and the information.

  2. I feel your pain. Media/journalism departments are often at the bottom of the food chain. We also don’t fit in the neat little high school world of 4 core subjects, fine arts, career classes, PE, language and business classes. We don’t fit in any of those areas and they don’t like it when we are grouped with them.

    We started web design, desktop publishing and video tech at my school this year. For all three programs we get $3K. We need about $11K just for software. Right now we are using iMovie, Adobe Contribute and a bunch of open source programs just to get by. Most people, especially educators, have no idea how expensive multimedia is to do right. They also don’t get how fast the programs are obsolete. I’m still using Photoshop 7.1 because I can’ afford to upgrade. I guess we will keep using it until it won’t work on a new Mac.

    Keep up the good fight Cindy. If you are passionate, someone will see it and hopefully reward your passion.

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