January 16, 2007

Getting Started

This is Day One of introducing our journalism students to blogging as a way of teaching reporting. We are applying this at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication as part of the basic news writing and reporting curriculum, the first intensive skills-based class of our professional journalism majors. Instructors in all three sections of Jour 3101 have agreed to use blogs primarily to encourage students to engage with news.

In my section of 3101, students must blog five stories per week in the fashion of The Times' approach in must summarize news stories and look for ways those stories are sourced and treated on other sites. In the basic reporting course, students will create five entries per week.

I am also using this idea in an intermediate reporting course, where students will create three entries per week on public affairs stories that include coverage of cops, courts or government. Entries will automatically be summarized on an aggregator site. Students can then click on the entries and comment directly to the students on the blog.

My hopes? Engagement with news, depth of analysis and experience with the technology they need to know. These blogs -- designed to be fact-based commentaries on reported information -- will not replace the reporting, writing and editing that goes on in the courses. But it might send the students into news more effectively than news quizzes or class discusssions have been able to do. For years, I have been trying to get journalism students to engage with news, with some frustration.. Even those intent on becoming journalists aren't reading newspapers with any consistency or depth. They surf the web, though. My hope is that these blog sites will encourage engagement.

They will also provide a much-needed portfolio item as they look for jobs. When describing the blog assignments to my intermediate reporting students, I asked how many of them had blogs already. None raised a hand. That gave me everything I needed to know: This kind of approach is critical for journalism students today.