Changing journalism classes in high school

Two recent articles and other observations have me thinking about the need to restructure journalism programs or school newspaper programs in our high schools. Some interesting ideas and developments lately that if I was a journalist teacher I’d be sharing and discussing with my students.

First from Mashable comes 8 Must-Have Traits of Tomorrow’s Journalist which include:

  1. Entrepreneurial and Business Savvy
  2. Programmer
  3. Open-minded Experimenter
  4. Multimedia Storyteller
  5. The Social Journalist and Community Builder
  6. Blogger and Curator
  7. Multi-skilled
  8. Fundamental Journalism Skills

It’s a great read for any student who is thinking of journalism as a career.

Then today on my iPhone I read about AOL braking away from Time Warner to become their own company once again and focus on creating content on the web via their web portals. The AP article talks about how AOL hired Tim Armstrong, a former Google advertising executive, as CEO as it looks at the future of making money on free content. The article ends with this paragraph:

The company plans to fill many of its Web sites with inexpensive material produced by freelancers paid by the post. This week it said it had hired New York Times reporter Saul Hansell to oversee part of that content-generation effort.

So AOL will be looking to hire freelance journalist who understand how to create a community and blogging….see Mashable’s list above.

Now let’s throw one more thing into the mix and that’s the skills we teach kids around writing. I share this in many of my presentations, the fact that the writing process is changing due to the Internet. Not so much the whole process (although I do think a Word processor does change that as well) but the fact that you no longer have an introductory paragraph when writing an article. These days due to RSS you get a sentence. Case in point, the RSS feed from the Seattle Times:

Newspaper RSS Feed

As a journalist today you get one sentence to hook a reader and make them click through to visit the website to finish reading the article. Of course that’s where the ads are and how newspapers are trying to make their money. No longer do you get a paragraph to fit the 5 Ws of writing…now you get a sentence. Now one paragraph to hook your reader….one sentence.

I just wonder how many high school journalism classes around the globe are helping student to not only learn to write for paper based readers but those for the web as well. Are we teaching them not just to create web pages, but sites and articles that allow a community to form around their content?

If there is one class in our high schools that the web should have completely changed….it should be journalism.

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