Pogo: We have seen the enemy, and he is us…

Jeff Straub, CoJMC broadcast news major, works on a story for the NewsNetNebraska.org Web site at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Photo: Barney McCoy, CoJMC

Jeff Straub, CoJMC broadcast news major, works on a story for the NewsNetNebraska.org Web site at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Photo: Barney McCoy, CoJMC

I’m proud of the new media training we provide students in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Speaking of which:

Tom Petner stirred my juices with his lead on TV Spy’s ShopTalk today.

Tom wrote:

“Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How would you like to be sitting in a classroom at Columbia University’s J-School – it’s your first day of class – and one of your journalism professors lets loose with:

Fuck new media

That happened, according to a student quoted in a story posted last week in the Daily Intel section of New York magazine.

The professor is also reported to have described new-media training as “playing with toys” and characterized the digital movement as “an experimentation in gadgetry.”

I heard about about this posting a few days ago, but I ignored it, chalking it up to the rant of a misguided (and perhaps out-of-touch) academic.

But a friend and former colleague, Chris Harper at Temple University, reminded me about a controversy brewing over the professor’s comments, and the larger on-going discussion/controversy at Columbia University.

I should note that Chris and another friend and former colleague – Linn Washington – took my place as co-directors of Temple University’s Multimedia Reporting Lab (MURL).

The Columbia controversy seems particularly timely with Hearst Closing Seattle P-I Print Edition, Going Online Only.

Yesterday, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer produced its last printed edition and become an Internet-only news source

Seattle Paper Shifts Entirely to the Web

(Dan DeLong/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, via Associated Press)
Roger Oglesby, right, of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, announced the paper’s final print edition.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer will produce its last printed edition on Tuesday and become an Internet-only news source, the Hearst Corporation said on Monday, making it by far the largest American newspaper to take that leap.

But The P-I, as it is called, will resemble a local Huffington Post more than a traditional newspaper, with a news staff of about 20 people rather than the 165 it had, and a site with mostly commentary, advice and links to other news sites, along with some original reporting. (more)

In the New York magazine story, the Columbia professor in question insists he is not against new media.

“They need to know the ethics and history and practice of journalism before they become consumed with the mold they put it in, because the mold will change — the basics won’t,” he says, explaining his outburst.

True. But it does make you wonder whether that new media attitude is what you want professors carrying into a journalism classroom.

Convergence is no great surprise.

The digital transition in journalism has been coming to newsrooms for a long time, so the frustration and angst are curious.

What’s also curious is whether universities and the j-schools are preparing students for what’s expected of them in a contemporary newsroom…not the digital tools and toys….but online journalism as a platform that develops stories and complements print and broadcast.

What do ShopTalk readers think.

Here’s a link to the New York magazine piece:


…and a response from Scott Rosenberg, a co-founded of Salon.com


Here’s my reply:

Pogo: We have seen the enemy, and he is us…

Our journalism students accept the need to learn new media skills.  Most embrace these skills.

I believe the bigger challenge is to convince faculty and administrators in every U.S. journalism school that they must make time to acquire and use new media skills in order to be relevant and credible in the classroom.

Many faculty and administrators have directly taken on this responsibility.  Others have not for different reasons-  Can’t find time.  Don’t feel comfortable learning new media.  Want nothing to do with new media.

NewsNetNebraska students K.J. Hascall and Mimi Abebe edit video for a story they're producing on NewsNetNebraska.org. Photo: Barney McCoy, CoJMC

NewsNetNebraska students K.J. Hascall and Mimi Abebe edit video for a story they're producing on NewsNetNebraska.org. Photo: Barney McCoy, CoJMC

During the past eight years, CoJMC has been a national leader in training students in classes offering online journalism.

Recently I blogged (University of Nebraska-Lincoln J-School ramps up online journalism) about additional changes in our college designed to uniformly emphasize new media journalism skills in most of the courses we teach.

The new curriculum shift places a deeper, more thorough emphasis on awareness, understanding and application of online journalism skills and the training will begin in the freshman year.

These changes are based on basic realities:

  • Multi-tasking journalism skills are the norm, not the exception for working journalists and communicators today.
  • Many journalists who have survived job cuts were those who added new media skills to their existing journalism skills.
  • Most newspapers, networks, magazines, radio stations and television stations are increasingly producing online content as they seek ways to vertically integrate content across print, broadcast and online venues.
  • They’re doing this to produce new income streams to replace traditional ones that have declined over the past decade.
  • They’re also doing this to reach growing audiences that are increasingly turning to the Internet for information.

I believe journalism schools across the country have two options:

  1. Accept reality, refocus, adapt and hopefully survive.
  2. Ignore reality and fade away.

Option #1 may be the only opportunity to educate future generations of journalists.
Option #2 speaks for itself.

About Bernard McCoy

My views are my own and not a reflection of my employer. I'm a 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.
This entry was posted in broadcasting, education, Journalism, nebraska, new media, newspapers, television, Uncategorized, University of Nebraska and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Pogo: We have seen the enemy, and he is us…

  1. Hobosic says:

    Thank you! I would now go on this blog every day!


  2. SonyaSunny says:

    barneymccoy.wordpress.com – da best. Keep it going!

    Thank you

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