This is an I-love-technology piece, gird yourselves accordingly.
Fourteen years ago, as a journalism student, I recorded a lot of audio.
This set up (pictured left), included the latest technology: a smallish cassette recorder, and a giant ice-cream-cone-shaped microphone.
I was set. I recorded ‘tape’ of interviews for assignments, and eventually did a 30-minute radio documentary about women journalists working on Parliament Hill from 1966 – 1996. (Note to self: Find and digitize, some big names on there).
In my first year of journalism school, we were taught to edit tape using an Ampex, razors and tape. I’m not making this up.
Mary McGuire, my radio professor back then, tweeted a pic of the actual Ampex I worked on:
Later, ‘new technology’ was brought in, and we were taught digital editing. (Cue angels singing, as I was never very handy with razors and tape.)
Now that I’m in a university environment, I’ve been thinking about the skills I learned as a journalism student, and what schools are teaching students today.
Ideally, a student should graduate from journalism school with skills that prepare them to walk into a newsroom – any newsroom – and thrive. (These skills should of course be in addition to sound news judgement and an understanding of journalism ethics and the importance of responsible reporting.)
So here’s my grocery list of ideal skills for the newsroom newbie:
Soon I’ll find myself out of a newsroom as I head for university life, spending the next four months in academia.
(Cue fish-out-of-water cliches.)
In June, I was awarded the first-ever Michener-Deacon Fellowship for journalism education.
As part of that fellowship, I’ll be a journalist-in-residence at Carleton University, and teaching a multimedia class to third-year journalism students.
Another part of that fellowship involves a research project, and in my proposal I outlined how I’d like to examine community newsrooms.
My original plan was broad enough to be a PhD dissertation, I worked with Christopher Waddell, the Director of the School of Journalism at Carleton, to sharpen its focus. I’d like to examine Canadian initiatives, as well as projects south of the border. And most importantly, it has to be a study that can be completed in four months, the length of the fellowship.
So, here goes – thus far:
Convocations around town have me thinking back … way, way back to my own graduation from journalism school – and what I was hoping the experience would give me.
Recently I received the anonymous student evaluations from the ‘Fundamentals of Reporting’ (boot camp) course I taught last year at Carleton University. I took a version of the course when I was a Master’s student at Carleton.
The course emphasizes basic interview skills, preparing a background file, investigating sources and an emphasis on Canadian Press style - with weekly assignments and a major feature at the end of the term. While it’s not their only journalism course, it is one where second-year students get to stretch their legs the most and get out there and do some writing.
As important as the grading system is (I presume if your evaluation marks are astonishingly awful, you won’t be asked back as an instructor), I place as much importance on the comments on the back.
The amazing folks at the Michener Awards Foundation have recognized the importance of journalism education, and created a Michener-Deacon Fellowship this year that allows for a ‘journalist-in-residence’ at a journalism school in Canada.
More amazing is that I’ve won it.
I’ve had a few people ask me what exactly I’ll be studying/researching/teaching about community journalism at Carleton University from January to May 2013. So, I decided to post my proposal here. (Where, I’ll also be reporting my findings throughout the Fellowship)
Second confession: my impression of a hacker had largely been shaped by a really mediocre 1990′s movie. Great soundtrack, but no way could I do what these folks were doing.
Fast forward 16 years and I’m a convert. Partnering with hackers is a natural fit: as more and more data is available to the public, there are stories to be told.
And despite the way they are portrayed by the media – yes, us – hackers are not in their basements dreaming up viruses to take over the world.
I’m part of a group that brought a Hacks/Hackers chapter to Ottawa, and I’m learning that when journalists and technology collide, amazing things happen.