The question that keeps coming up in recent discussions about experimentation and fertile failure is this: Who will drive the vision and who will take the risk that journalism needs to get over this hump?
As a preamble, I’m re-running two blog posts (…hmm, I wonder if “the long tail” is going to make the word re-run go the way of the turntable…anyway…) that highlight the challenge and two potential answers:
After the jump, I’m looking for where we might be most likely to find the fertile failures and experimentors that journalism needs.
Continue reading “Rerun Posts: Who Drives the Vision? Who Takes the Risk?”
For a lot of very good reasons the word “failure” is not welcome in newsrooms. The aversion probably begins in j-schools when we give automatic Fs to students who write news stories about “Thornberg” or “Thornburgh” instead of “Thornburg,” it continues with 2 a.m. panic attacks about transposing quotes, and probably calcifies completely with the fear of being sued for libel. In short, journalists don’t get paid for making mistakes. Good. They shouldn’t.
But a failure is not always a mistake, especially in the context of an experiment that fails to prove a widely held belief. Experiments that fail often lead to entirely new lines of inquiry and new understanding about the world. To enjoy this kind of fertile failure that yields innovation, you have to pursue success in the right way. Fertile failure is most likely when you tackle a very specific, very big question with small experiments that are conducted as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Universities, where failure leads both to the creation of new ideas as well as the ability to shed old ideas, should be ideal partners for risk-averse news organizations. Here are a few ideas about how journalism schools can be breeding grounds for fertile failure.
Continue reading “J-Schools: Breeding Ground for Fertile Failure”
The role of innovation in news has come up in several conversations I’ve had with folks over the last few weeks, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the pursuit of innovation may be fun as all get out, but on its own it does not do enough to move the industry forward. What we need instead of innovation is experimentation.
What’s the difference between innovation and experimentation? Innovation only values success. Experimentation also values failure.
Continue reading “Innovation Isn’t Enough”
A brief story in The News & Observer today notes how journalism education at UNC and Duke are changing. When I spoke with reporter Eric Ferreri a few weeks ago for his story, he asked about the difficulty — and perhaps futility — of teaching “new media” to students who probably can’t remember a world without the Internet.
As Ferreri notes in the story, I think there’s a significant difference between using technology and understanding its social, political and economic implications — just like there’s a difference between driving a car and being able to repair its engine. (This is why it’s still important to teach students HTML.)
The challenge for educators is to get students to begin to reflect in both positive and normative terms about how they communicate in different media environments.
Reflection is a key component in service learning, but it’s also critical to add a level of consciousness to any field that has developed informally and organically. Journalism students don’t need classroom education to BE in the world — they can acquire skills more efficiently just by doing internships. But they do need classroom education in order to EXPLAIN the world and to LEAD it.
Our role as journalism professors in a world where anyone can publish a blog is to develop leadership, not merely train practitioners.
The semester at UNC-Chapel Hill is done and the students in “Public Affairs Reporting for New Media” have put together a wonderful resource for learning about and engaging in efforts to curb the state’s high dropout rate.
You can read my notes about their work at https://www.ncdropout.org/node/415
or visit the site’s homepage at https://www.ncdropout.org.
Among the pieces I’ve enjoyed the most are the online journalism tutorials that the students themselves created based on their own experiences hashing through their first efforts and multimedia, interactive, on-demand news story telling. You can see their tutorials here.
Contrary to what seems to be popular opinion, magazines have a strong future online, I think. But their future depends completely on the leadership and innovation of publishers and editors, as I told the Carolina Association of Future Magazine Editors last night.
The audio of the talk is after the jump.
Continue reading “Advice to Future Magazine Editors”
I’m happy to announce the new release of Reaching Audiences: A Guide to Media Writing. Jan Yopp and Katherine McAdams were kind enough to invite me to be a co-author on this edition and help update it with a lot of new information about online news, including a whole new chapter on the topic.
My portion of the royalties from all sales of new copies of this book at UNC Student Stores will be going to scholarships for journalism students here.
The students in JOMC 491: “Public Affairs Reporting for New Media” are developing some bang-up stories and tools. For anyone interested in the future of news, in North Carolina civic life or in education policy, their projects are worth reading … and engaging.
An earlier post provided a quick introduction to writing FAQs, and how they can be used to apply several concepts of online news writing.
The students in Public Affairs Reporting for New Media have posted their FAQs. They’re a good example of explanatory journalism and online news writing. They’re also the kind of evergreen content that can be re-used when there’s a strong news peg for the topic.
Our next step? User-generated content. More on that tomorrow.
I’ve written in a previous post that journalism students should be taught HTML as a way of helping them understand the concept of separating content from formatting. But I ran in to another perfect example today of why even journalists who are working in a CMS and working primarily with text need to know some basic HTML.
Continue reading “Why Journalists Need to Know HTML”