Do we overestimate journalism students’ web skills?

From the Twitter feed: 

do journ educators misunderstand level of students’ web skills?advanced online journalism module set up at Sunderland-only 4 signed up

From my observations – yes, I think we do.

As I’ve noted before, journalism (and other) students live their lives on Facebook, but when it comes to actually using the web more, well, journalistically, they are pretty inexperienced. They’re also often not that interested, which puzzles me a bit. 

Their research is also woefully limited, in my experience. I love the Wikipedia as a quick-and-dirty tool for getting the gist about something I know nothing about – but I wouldn’t rely on it for core research. I always go to another, primary, source for definitive facts.

But, from what I’ve seen of their portfolios,  journalism students tend to use it exclusively – and cite it as the ultimate arbiter of truth. 

That means those of us working on journalism courses have our work cut out – not just in teaching students advanced technical skills, such as how to design a CMS, but also why it’s important to explore and understand the web more. 

The key is to understand the nature of the way the web changes the way we communicate.

We’ve moved from the ‘push’ supply model of media owner/publisher > journalist > consumer to one of facilitating (hopefully informed and intelligent) communication. 

But the trouble is that a lot of old-style journalism still hasn’t caught up this this. 

And apart from some high-profile exceptions, a lot of old-style academia hasn’t caught up with this either. Or if they have, then their academic framework won’t let them adapt to the changes in the media quick enough. 

Part of the trouble is that the new media landscape simply hasn’t settled down enough for us to know what it will look like. Let alone whether we’ll be able to make enough money from it to justify passing thousands of new journalists through college every year. 

But unless we, as journalists and educators, are clear about its importance and the need to communicate that to students, they will keep avoiding it.

(HT: journalism_live)

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