Monday, September 21, 2009

Online Journalism Review: Eight things that journalism students should demand from their journalism schools

I am a big believer in speaking with journalism students and mentoring them whenever I can. I am on the board of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's aviation communication program. I go back regularly to my alma mater -- American University -- to speak with students on new media and job issues. One of my favorite things to do at the annual conference at the National Association of Black Journalists is to speak with students.

As you have read here, I am passionate about journalists making the move to new/digital media. I've shared my experiences and am very active with NABJ's Digital Journalism Task Force. Students are in a position now to learn from the ground level what I had to -- and still am -- learn on my own.

I have to say that I was shocked when I was speaking with students at this year's NABJ that their schools were not teaching new media skills. And I'm not talking about mid to lower level colleges -- I'm talking about big-name journalism schools.

One conversation went like this: Thanks for your card. I see you go to BIG NAME JOURNALISM SCHOOL. How are your classes coming along? Great. What kind of courses are you taking? (She lists the courses). I notice you don't have any digital media classes on that list. Are you taking those courses? Um, no. Why not? We only have a few of those classes, but I haven't gotten to them yet. Do you have a web site to highlight your portfolio? A web site? A portfolio? I do have a resume, and I've done some work on the NABJ student project the past few years. You should put that in your portfolio. OK. When do you graduate? May 2010. What do you want to do? Be a journalist.

I could go on, but you get the point. Which is why I was happy to see this post from Robert Niles on today's Online Journalism Review blog on eight things students should demand from their journalism schools. While all of them are important, three really stood out for me:

  • A mentor. Niles recommends that students get mentors outside the university/college setting, and I agree. And please, students -- keep up with your mentees. We are working professionals and while we want to help, we don't have time to chase after you, so do the right thing and keep up with a person that could help you when it's time to get that job.
  • A place to hack. I developed my digital media skills by experimenting with all kinds of tools and technology, and your school should offer you the same. As Niles wrote, "And online publishing will not look the way it does today 10 years from now, just as it looks little now like it did 10 years ago. Students need forums in which to explore and test their interactive publishing skills."
  • Getting your name out there. With all the tools out there, there's no reason a student can't create their own web site or blog on a topic of interest and make a name for him/her self that will impress employers once they graduate. I have used social media to brand myself in aviation. I love where I work now and have NO plans to leave, but if that changes, I already have a brand that is known in my industry, which will make my job search much easier.
If your school isn't giving you any of Niles' suggestions, you have a choice -- go to another school that does or work with faculty, administrators and other students to get your school to offer them. And a bonus? It's something you can put in your work portfolio! Good luck!!

No comments:

Post a Comment