Teaching Examples

An idea for training multimedia journalists
February 2, 2007, 2:12 pm
Filed under: education, journalism, multimedia, online, teaching, tools

I give a lot of thought to training the next generation of journalists. The current generation too (I guess that might be called re-training), but the ones in the classroom get my immediate attention.

So I have been thinking about some hardware requirements for journalism students. First, these are only ideas, not policies at my university. Second, I am thinking maybe they would work better for graduate students than for undergraduates.

  • Require them to own a good-quality small point-and-shoot camera that can be used for video (see previous post).
  • Require them to buy a decent microphone and a decent digital audio recorder (I’m talking about a kit that comes to about $200 U.S., total).
  • Require them to have a relatively new laptop computer, either Windows or Mac.

I think perhaps we have come to the point when a journalist should have the kind of relationship with his or her computer that a photojournalist has with the camera. It is always with you. It is always ready.

I’m interested to hear what others think about these ideas.

I do not mind teaching students how to use software, but I think my role is really to teach them how to report and how to tell stories, how to exercise news judgment and be responsible. When they get stuck with software, I’m there to help them. To me, this connects to requiring them to buy their own tools. My cousin was a machinist, and he was expected to buy his own tools. He treated them well and looked after them because they were his.

I think if the students owned their tools, they would learn more about using them effectively. This is especially true for the laptop — if you carry it with you, it’s easy to ask others for help, advice, critiques. You can say “Look what I made!” at lunch or sitting on a bench at the bus stop. I think this showing and sharing helps people adapt to technology and integrate it into their working life.

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15 Comments so far
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I agree with you Mindy.

A small point and shoot can be used to capture very acceptable video and stills for the web.

If you get an audio recorder and a cheap tie clip mic, it’s great for gathering ambient sound in the field and can be operated hands free if you stick the recorder in your pocket. For interviews, you can use a better mic. I use the Edirol R-09 and the included mics are fabulous. It’s the size of a deck of playing cards and extremely light.

Add a good laptop and you’re all set to go.


Comment by John Bonnar

I would encourage students to take a serious look at tablet computers. Nothing beats note taking on a slate tablet. I use a Motion tablet and I love it!

Comment by Frances Flynn Thorsen

An option to an audio recorder is a microphone for your iPod. I have a Belkin TuneTalk and I like it. http://catalog.belkin.com/IWCatProductPage.process?Product_Id=277661

It is really small and plugs into the bottom of your iPod provided you have one of the new ones. I know they make similar devices for the older ones too. It also has a line in for an external microphone if needed. As a student I know just about everyone carries their iPod so this is one small addition to that instead of a separate device.

I just bought a laptop this semester. I didn’t carry one as an undergrad because no one did back then in the olden days. 😉 Now just about everyone has a laptop and uses it to take notes in class, work between classes etc. UF was just getting wired as I was leaving in 2002. Indiana University is fully wired, it is hard to find a place where you can’t get on the wireless network. I find I get a lot more work done in time that would be dead time.

Comment by Jamie

I agree that if you already have an iPod, an iPod mic might be the way to go. The Belkin is one choice, and there are a couple of others. Craig blogged about his in November. But if I remember correctly, only the latest generation iPods capture high-quality audio. In older models, no matter what mic you buy, you cannot capture high-quality sound.

Comment by Mindy McAdams

The main thing is, I think — get students producing content on their own, self publishing. I would encourage them to blog and include still, audio and video in their blog.

Comment by Howard Owens

Mindy is spot on, as usual. I have found that most of my multiplatform journalism students have invested in a low-cost digital audio recorder. The one problem some have come across is recorders that only use Windows Media format and can only be used with specific software. What you need is a machine that records in MP3 and just appears as a flash drive when you plug it into any computer.

Comment by Alfred Hermida

Alf, it’s EASY to convert those files! I just made a post about that this week. The quality (especially without an external mic) is a bigger issue than the file format.

Comment by Mindy McAdams

I just ran into a similar hiccup as Alfred mentioned. I was shopping for a new voice recorder in Seoul (Yongsan) and couldn’t find one anywhere that said it was Mac compatible. Maybe I can still switch these, as you posted earlier, but I’m hesitant to lay down the cash and have it just not work. I’m using a MacBook. Any suggestions?

Comment by Chris

As a masters degree student in Interactive Journalism at American University in Washington, DC, my cohorts and I are dealing with this same issue. It seems program administrators don’t know what to require either so a week before our first class we got a spec sheet for a computer. Then we show up for our digital storytelling class and are told we need a digital recorder and a digital camera.

College and university administrators should supply this information up front so students have time to save money for the costly purchases or to include them in financial aid budgets. Doing it piecemeal isn’t fair to the students and shows a lack of organization on the program administrator’s part.

Comment by Student Blogger

Chris, there are two things I can suggest: (1) The DS-2 by Olympus works with Macs — and I don’t know, but maybe some others by Olympus do too. Check their Web site! (2) Have an iPod? Buy an iPod mic kit and plug it in. You know THAT will work with your Mac!

Comment by Mindy McAdams

I agree, “student blogger” — if a school or program is going to require stuff, they need to be clear and consistent.

Also, when equipment is literally REQUIRED, you can include it in your student loan package — just like textbooks.

Comment by Mindy McAdams

Several of the Olympus models work on the Mac, but only record in the WMA format. When you plug into the USB, it shows up as a disk similar to a digital still card. You just drag the file onto the desktop and then use a converter to make it a mac-compatible file.

I did run across a student’s Sony recorder the other day that we couldn’t get to read on the Mac. I blame that on poor forethought by Sony.

Comment by Murley

Re: the requirement question, several schools are already requiring students to bring laptops to school with them. Clemson, for instance, requires all incoming freshmen to have a laptop when the come to campus.

Comment by Murley

As I was preparing to reblog your article, I realized I’d written some similar sentiments on Halloween: What every student reporter should have. I included a cell phone along with the items you listed.

Comment by Murley

I made a comment over on Andy Dickinson’s blog in response to him linking to this post, just wanted to put a British students’ perspective on it – where the higher education system and conditions are a little different I guess.

Comment by Ed Walker

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