Teaching the whipper-snapper generation

JAWS CAMP 2011, JAWS CAMP blog l

By Karen M. Cheung
With the changing tides of journalism, teaching the next generation of reporters and editors presents plenty of challenges: ensuring accuracy in a multimedia world, grading students fairly, and making time for own research.

Even with all the challenges, it’s also currently an opportune and fun time, according to Mills College Professor of Journalism Sarah Pollock.
“Now is the most exciting time for teaching … in decades,” said Pollock at Saturday’s session “Engaging the Next Generation: How and Why to Teach New Journalists” at #JAWS11.
In overcoming the many obstacles in the age of whipper snappers and multimedia, consider the following tips from the panel experts.

Encourage students to be flexible with skills

Yes, it’s a hard job market out there, but there’s still a market. As students worry about finding jobs post graduation, encourage them to incorporate new media into their existing medium. 

“Everyone wants news. It will never die, particularly broadcasting because it appeals to the senses,” said Chicago’s Columbia College Associate Professor Yolanda Joe. Comparing changing news to gum, she said, “It’s the packaging that changes.”

For instance, in covering Chaz Bono’s appearance on Dancing with the Stars, Joe said students incorporated tweets from his mother, Cher, into the story. Including social media in “traditional media,” if you will, is one way to getting the quotes and the critical information that every story needs.
Stress core journalism skills in multimedia world

At the same time, journalism instructors also must stress the core journalism skills of truth and accuracy, even if the source is a Twitter quote.

“Keep the facts straight,” Joe tells her students.

Be transparent with grading

As Missouri School of Journalism Associate Professor Mary Kay Blakely pointed out, today’s kids are under tremendous pressure to get A’s and B’s, to make the grade for grad school and for jobs.

With their pressure comes additional pressure on the journalism teacher.

“Grading is the bane of every journalist’s teaching,” said Mills College Journalism Professor Sarah Pollock. 

One way to help students succeed is to clearly communicate you grading metrics, the panelists said. For instance, provide students with a rubric, or tiered measurements with an assigned value to each (e.g., a certain percentage for turning in an assignment on time, newsgathering, writing).

By creating and providing students a syllabus with assessment goals can not only ensure fair grading, but it can help allay students’ fears about the grading system. 

Note: Here’s a sample syllabus from Garza: GarzaEconomics_Syllabus8_24_10v3
Continue your education

Education for instructors is as critical as it is for students.

“It’s all about learning and not about teaching,” said Melita Garza, a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill PhD candidate. After leaving a six-figure job to find the freedom and autonomy in writing books and researching topics that news organizations wouldn’t necessarily be interested in, she now chooses what and how to teach.

According to Garza, to teach journalism, you have to do journalism. “I’m never going to stop being a journalist,” she said.