Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Training the journalists of the future

Nothing will be on paper in 20 years' time. Or so my colleague Adam Westbrook predicts. In five years' time we'll be downloading news, books and any other media we subscribe to onto foldable sheets of micro-thin plastic (like Kindle but slicker). There will be downloading (or uploading?) machines in stations and other public buildings so that people can load up their plastic pages with text, video and audio, a bit like an Oyster card.

At least this would go some way to cutting down on paper recycling. And getting multimedia on the move without having to read a tiny iPod touch screen and find a wi-fi connection sounds like a good idea to me. Some of my other colleagues weren't convinced. One of them bet Adam £100 he was wrong.

But Adam's main message, as he says in his blog today, is that journalism departments everywhere, including ours at Kingston, have to shift their emphasis. We need to train our students to be entrepreneurs rather than expect a job for life. Being able to market yourself, find funding, get an audience and grow a brand will be vital skills. Students must blog, have a Twitter presence and join in with the conversation. They need video and photojournalism skills. And the future is niche, hyperlocal.

This last earned a shudder from colleagues who had spent tedious years on local papers "writing about dog mess", as one put it. But the old career model of starting on local papers, moving to regionals and then onto nationals is much rarer than it used to be.

Personally, I think these new ways of thinking potentially open up exciting routes into journalism for students. No longer do you have to wait for an editor to grant you space in a paper. You just start a blog and go for it. Of course, it's not as easy as that. You have to write well and get yourself noticed. And the sad truth is that blogging doesn't bring you a regular paycheck.


  1. Sara
    Funny you should mention that.
    Here is a proposal I just put in front of Nick Lemann, the Dean of the J-School at Columbia U.

  2. Alan Rusbridger in the columbia review of journalism said:

    "I like the idea of tax breaks and pioneering J-schools. The former gets round the pitfalls of direct subsidy; the latter really ought to be startling us with innovation and invention (including new ways of using official data) rather than preparing students for jobs that won’t exist."

    I read Rosenblum's Entrepreneurial Journalism course suggestion, and it seems like a reasonable idea in theory, I just have one question - doesn't this turn the university of columbia into a "Journalist Shop", cultivating and equipping the student to be an effiecient 'Journalist Product" which is then sold on the open market?
    It seems a bit mercenary to me, although the 'travel VJs' comment struck a bell with me.

    I personally feel that Journalists are teachers, teachers about the modern world, teachers about niche areas, teachers of philosophy, politics and a range of topics, and that's where I see my own role.

    I'm equipped to do graphics, Video Journalism, web-design, and soon, with luck and application, I'll be a qualified Journalist too, and luckily, I'm already a qualified English teacher, but I'm not blowing my own horn here, I'm concerned as anyone that I can't find a way of making the web pay...

    But there's still a place for paper, theres' a place for books and handwriting, and print journnalism in general. It's an interesting *fact* that nothing made since the 1800s has gone completely out of production. (Can't remember where I read this, think maybe it was from but nothing made in the modern industrial age is unfindable, ungettable, or unmakable) hence books, newspapers and presses will always have a place.

    I think if we're genuinely going to look forward, what we see is doing away with media altogether. After all, it doubtless won't be long before cranial wifi is installed, and we're all networking each other's brain thoughts...