Teaching Examples

Design, CSS, HTML and journalism
February 11, 2006, 2:08 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

There’s always this big debate about teaching software vs. teaching journalism, teaching code, script, etc., vs. teaching the essential skills of reporting the news. If you teach journalism at any college or university, you have heard this debate. Sometimes it gets downright nasty.

I’m going into the sixth week of the spring semester, and in my advanced Web course so far, I have not covered anything but CSS and design. Why? Because there are journalism jobs for people who have these skills, and we are a journalism school.

Just go to journalismjobs.com and look at what’s available under Industry: Online Media.

There are 134 job listed for Online Media today. Under TV and radio combined, there are 56 jobs listed.

For a job in North Carolina: “The ideal candidate will be grounded in the skills, methods and values of journalism and experienced in creating and producing multimedia and interactive content for the Web. The producer will serve as an editor/designer, updating and crafting the site on the day shift and working weekends as needed. The producer also will contribute original content or pieces supplementing work produced by the newsroom.” Basic qualifications include: “Working knowledge of the basics of Web design and development (HTML, Photoshop). Knowledge of Associated Press style, grammar and spelling. Working knowledge of Flash. Basic knowledge of audio and video editing.”

The job title is online producer. The employer is a newspaper Web site.

We have other courses in which students learn reporting, ethics, law and editing. So I think that when they take a Web production/design course in the j-school, they should focus on acquiring the online skills that employers are looking for.

The New York Times is looking for “a talented multimedia producer to create cutting-edge multimedia for our news and features sections. The producer will be expected to work with reporters from The New York Times, producers from the Web site and NYTimes.com’s award-winning multimedia team to write, record, edit and produce Flash-based features.”

In Week 6 in my class, we start working in Flash. Then we’ll spend the rest of the semester using Flash. At the end of 10 weeks, will they be ready to work for The New York Times? Probably not. But after a year or two at a smaller online operation? Yes, they could be.

The Gannett News Service has an ad for “an online storyteller who can collaborate effectively with reporters, editors, photographers and graphic artists to create outstanding interactive coverage for newspaper and television Web sites. … can conceive and help execute interactive Flash graphics, searchable databases, audio and video to enhance traditional narrative.”

Enough already. Why wouldn’t we teach these skills — which ARE script, code, software, design and standards of usability? I learned to use a pica stick and a proportion wheel in j-school 20 years ago, and that was in a required course.

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3 Comments so far
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So now you get to hear what a student is thinking. Thus far in my internet journalism classes all we’ve been learning is theory, aesthetics of design and history. This is all great and well, and I do genuinely appreciate it, but as I’m approaching graduation I need some REAL skills. My traditional journalism education is of no use to me if I don’t have the technical skills to apply it to the internet. I’m looking into community college courses to fill in what one of the finest colleges in the nation ISN’T teaching me. I think you’re doing the right thing.

Comment by Bigredbarbie

Well said, Mindy. Here at Berkeley we have the same ongoing debate. A parallel debate is whether we have an obligation to teach certain specific tools (software) that are widely used in the industry, or to teach general principles that can be applied to any software. For example, do we teach video with iMovie because it’s a faster means to an end, or Final Cut because that’s likely what people will be using? Do we teach Pro Tools for audio despite its advanced learning curve, or a free tool such as Audacity that will get them to the finishing line faster?

In any case, I agree that pure journalism is happening all over the school, and that our multimedia skills classes can afford to emphasize more tech and less journalism. They’re not mutually exclusive.

Comment by Scot

Good point about WHICH software, scot. One thing I’m a stickler for is Photoshop. I wasn’t always, but when I see students who don’t know how to “Save for Web” for the smallest file size, or how to use layers to best advantage, I know they’re going to make a bad impression on the job. Other things, like iMovie, seem to me like the ideal way to teach principles that span all video editing apps.

Comment by Mindy McAdams

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