New Attitudes in the J-Classroom

First day of the Spring 2011 term today, and after three years of trying to convince journalism students that social media are for more than telling their friends about what they ate for lunch I think they’re starting to come to class ready to dig in.

In past terms, many of our students have treated new-media assignments at arm’s length. Blogging was something many students would take on if the instructor set up the blog. For most, Twitter was something to be endured and dropped as soon as the term was over.

But my colleagues and I sense that we’re seeing a change in attitude. The latest breakthrough came today in my Beginning Newswriting and Reporting class, where a senior English major told the class that she’s taking the course this term “because I need to get up to speed with blogging and Twitter” before she graduates. (Sorry I can’t identify her by name yet — I’m still putting names with faces.)

Don’t think I’ve heard one of my students say that before. I hope I’m going to hear it a lot more in the future.

We’ll see how it goes tomorrow when the 2011 section of the Multimedia Journalism Seminar launches for our graduating seniors. Their primary task will be to pitch, build, populate and monitor metrics on an entrepreneurial journalism site that they believe can generate an audience. They’ll need to demonstrate audience growth and use a variety of means to drive traffic to their sites.

Wish I had $40,000 in seed money for Great Ideas that City University’s Jeff Jarvis helped corral for his Entrepreneurial Journalism students last month. But we don’t.

What we do have is the ‘Did You Know?’ video at the top of this post that well demonstrates the revolution that this is. And we have this 13-month-old post from Mashable that has done more to turn our students on to the challenge of making it in journalism than any textbook I’ve ever had them read.

If you’re a journalism prof, have your students read this. Again and again.


  1. I’ve noticed the shift, too. Three years ago I forced Twitter, blogging, etc. on my news-Internet sophomores. Most were reluctant, some even resentful. Now, as seniors, every one of them is an active, intelligent Twitter user, and most are also regularly blogging. (I confess feeling a bit vindicated.)

    The challenge is to anticipate the next wave of what they’ll need to know. We are trying to push hard on mobile as a tool for newsgathering, publication and audience interaction. Always something new for us to learn.

  2. I taught my first course in citizen journalism back in ’06, and student resistance was strong. I wish I could go back and talk with some of those students. The difference between them and what we have now is night and day.

    At Lehigh we weren’t doing any of this, so I introduced it into a curriculum that was a traditional print program. Battles on two fronts: getting them to use it, and getting them to see its value. Once students saw their friends who embraced social media getting jobs, the change began to accelerate. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a reason things are changing with your students as well.

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