It’s broke- Let’s fix it

Barney McCoy, associate professor of journalism, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Barney McCoy, associate professor of journalism, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

In early 2006, I began team teaching the new media course in the College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

In 27 years working as a full-time journalist, it wasn’t unusual to find managers or co-workers who believed it was useless to take content they helped create for a newspaper or broadcast company and use it on a Web page.

Some thought it was a waste of time. Others believed creating Web content for a newspaper, television or radio station diluted the primary news product. What they didn’t fully understand at the time, was that a significant part of their audience had already migrating to the Web in search of breaking news, more content depth and variety from those who were willing to provide it.

These attitudes prevailed as recently as five years ago in many newsrooms across the country. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” they said.

As recently as early 2006, about a third of the broadcast and news/editorial students enrolled in the new media course I helped teach at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln still questioned the need to learn new ways to present and produce information for a news Web page.

They said they were content to master the writing, editing and presentation skills they had learned for their respective print and broadcast majors. They said they also believed they could find career jobs that wouldn’t require them to know how to convert the news they gathered for a newspaper, radio or television news operation and re-purpose it with hyperlinks, podcasts, graphics or a different writing style for a web page.

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” they said.

The NewsNetNebraska.org Web site produced by UNL CoJMC students.

The NewsNetNebraska.org Web site produced by UNL CoJMC students.

Times have changed

Today, newspapers and broadcasters across the country no longer debate the merits of having a presence online for the products they produce offline.

They realize it may be the only way to slow, or even stop the steady flow of readers and viewers away from the mainstream content they produce.  

Today, I team teach two full sections of our new media course with Professor Charlyne Berens. None of our students question the need to acquire and practice the new media journalism skills they’re learning and helping pioneer. Quite the contrary. Many openly tell us they want every new media skill we can help them learn so they can hit the journalism job market at full-stride when they graduate. Especially now when the economy and job market are tougher than they’ve been in a long time.

What do some of this semester’s journalism students hope to gain from this class?

“I hope I can walk away from this class in December as a better writer, a better understanding of online news and I hope I can apply this class to my future internships and jobs,” wrote one of our students.

Another wrote; “My hopes with this class are to continue honing my reporting skills and to understand how story writing changes with the online medium.”

Several students have already had exposure to new media journalism skill sets through internships. “I plan on learning more about writing for the Web, as well as making podcasts and videos,” wrote one senior.

He added, “I have some experience in my work at daily newspapers, but I’ve only learned the skills on my own and without any help from more learned instructors, so I look forward to that.”

Two of our NewsNetNebraska podcasters Mandy Tessmer and Robert Tualaulelei

Two of our NewsNetNebraska podcasters Mandy Tessmer and Robert Tualaulelei

This semester, our students, with technical support and assistance from the New Digital Group’s David Hahn and Todd Harrison, helped completely redesign and revamp the NewsNetNebraska Web page that they contribute content to on a regular basis. They have learned about the Web site’s architecture, front and back. Our students, broadcast and news/editorial majors, are producing video podcasts.

They create slick looking video presentations.

They have blogged about their summer internships and are continuing a steady stream of dozens of blogs this semester about such topics as:

They are creating more powerful, evocative reporting at home and abroad.

Creating content for the Internet has also opened the doors wide for global consumption of the stories our students produce.  I believe bigger audiences also bring more diversity and accountability into the journalism equation.  In the end, isn’t that what this is really about.

The wireframe model students used to redesign the Web page in Sept., 2008.

Left- The current look of NewsNetNebraska. Right: The wire frame model students used to redesign the Web page with support from New Digital Group in Sept., 2008.

About me and this blog

I’m an Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I have helped teach our new media journalism course for the past three years. It’s thrilling to work with students looking for new, pioneering ways to shape news content on the Internet. This blog is one step in that direction.

Why this? I’ll be blogging about journalism and all the revolutionary changes swirling around the news industry these days. Many of my newspaper and broadcasting friends worry that this is the end to journalism as we have known it for decades. Some journalism students worry whether they’ll be able to compete for the best jobs in a journalism world that demands greater technical savvy than ever.

I’m optimistic. Indeed, these are exciting times. There is risk and opportunity.

I first became excited about the possibilities of the Internet in 1994 when I used it as a platform at WILX-TV in Lansing, Michigan to discuss current events with 400 teachers and their students in elementary and middle schools in Michigan. In 1996, the Internet was the basis of my master’s thesis that explored television, the Internet and education.

Between 1999 and 2006, I had the wonderful opportunity to work as a “converged” journalist as I helped create content for the Web sites of WBNS-TV in Columbus, Ohio and the Columbus Dispatch newspaper and their primary properties. I found that many exciting opportunities can empower journalists via the Internet and the broader global audiences they can serve. It’s a wonderful, powerful accountability tool for freedom of the press and free speech.

A little about me: I’ve been a working journalist for the past 29 years. Currently, I stay busy producing documentaries when I’m not teaching. Over the years I’ve reported in war zones, covered human and natural disasters, presidential conventions, one presidential inauguration and the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.

I’ve worked at WIBW-TV, Topeka, KS., KCTV, Kansas City, MO, WKBD-TV, Detroit, MI., WILX-TV, Lansing, MI. and WBNS-TV, Columbus, OH.

I’ve also worked as a contributing reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, Associated Press, CBS, CNN, the Ohio News Network and lectured on new media and convergence journalism at the Kosovo Institute of Journalism and Communications in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

2008 students at the Kosovo Institute of Journalism and Communications.

2008 students at the Kosovo Institute of Journalism and Communications.

I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in telecommunications management from Michigan State University.

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About Bernard McCoy

My views are my own and not a reflection of my employer. I'm an associate professor of Journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I've also been a working journalist for the past 29 years. I have covered news stories in war zones, reported on human and natural disasters, presidential conventions, a presidential inauguration and the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. My career experiences include work as an award-winning documentary producer, television news reporter, photographer, producer, and anchor. I worked at WIBW-TV, Topeka, KS., KCTV, Kansas City, MO, WKBD-TV, Detroit, MI., WILX-TV, Lansing, MI. and WBNS-TV, Columbus, OH. I have also worked as a contributing reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, Associated Press, CBS, CNN, the Ohio News Network and lecture at the Kosovo Institute of Journalism and Communications. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in telecommunications management from Michigan State University.
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2 Responses to It’s broke- Let’s fix it

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