How to Teach ‘Multitasking’ to Journalism Students

When Ying Du and I presented our paper at AEJMC last month, we noted that “multitasking” was a critical skill that is needed in online newsrooms, but not being taught in journalism schools. That brought up a challenging question: How exactly do you teach multitasking in an environment that is all about training students to focus on one subject at a time?

I’ve haven’t tried these, but I wanted to suggest a couple of adaptations to the time-honored tradition of having students write a story from a fact sheet. These might simulate the experience of a “multitasking newsroom.”

  • While they are writing, send students questions about their story via text messaging while they are trying to write. The students must provide the correct factual response.
  • Have students work on two stories at once. Both with the same deadline.
  • Have each student write a story, but also have every three students share one computer on which each of the students must edit one audio clip (or scan a PDF or whatever) to go with the story.
  • Give them a speech video to cover, but make them live-blog the speech while also taking notes to prepare for writing a traditional inverted-pyramid story upon the speech’s completion.

What do you think? Have you tried to incorporate multitasking into your class? Or, perhaps, is this complete against everything that a university education should provide? You thoughts are much obliged.

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