Tag Archives: CMS

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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Great beginner’s guide to CSS

I’ve just come across this simple start-up tutorial to cascading style sheets (CSS), which is ideal for the absolute beginner.

Much like style sheets in QuarkXPress and InDesign, CSS is at the heart of the look-and-feel of content management systems (CMS). But unlike style sheets in QuarkXPress and InDesign, CSS code looks like, well, code. So it can be a bit daunting for novices (like me). 

It’s heartening that the author even made a mess of his own code, so the example doesn’t quite work. Instead, you’ll need to download the updated zip files he’s provided. 

Once you do, however, you can spend many happy minutes changing font style, colour and size. Before getting bored and wondering if that’s all there is to CSS.

It isn’t! Follow up with the CSS tutorial on w3schools.com and wet Sunday afternoons will never be the same….

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Navigating the CMS minefield

Regular, geeky readers of Freelance Unbound will know that I am striving hard to become literate in the ways of CMS – that is in actually constructing a CMS-based site, not just using one.

This stuff is pretty hard to get to grips with for a non-techie journalist, so I’ve been trawling the web for as much user-friendly information as possible. 

Thanks, therefore, to Matt Bowen’s really excellent M.odul.us blog for some comprehensive, readable and knowledgeable (if dense) content. 

I came on M.odul.us when I was looking into the relative merits of Drupal and Plone (yet another open-source CMS technology). I’m trying to figure out which is the best investment of my time and energy to learn, given that life is, well, short.

It turns out that each has its merits and, scarily, it might be worth learning both. Except that Plone is even harder to get my non-programmer’s head around. 

Matt’s blog has a very comprehensive and balanced assessment of the two programs, which is also very clearly written, though the material is still quite difficult for non-specialists. 

More than that, he also has some really solid material on writing and communicating for the web, and a tech-based view on where the web is going, to pick just two posts. 

Why should non-tech-minded journalists even care what a programmer is writing?

Because we need to understand much more about the context in which we are plying our slightly grubby trade.

And because, in this case, a programmer is communicating very tough material in a very clear way. 

A lot of this material does go over my head – but a lot is worth reading. This is certainly one for the blogroll and for repeat visiting in order to understand what goes on under the hood of the web…

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