What I would teach a journalist, part 2
Wednesday, May 09, 2007 by Dave Winer.
A few days ago, in response to a query from a reader at the University of Nevada, I outlined how I would start teaching Web 2.0 to journalism students.
I said skip Drupal and get the kids on blogspot.com or wordpress.com asap, because they need to be blogging before anything else happens. I saw this at a meeting with J-school students at Cal a few weeks ago. There's a real resistance among students to just get started. I've seen the same thing with software developers. Every writer will tell you the same thing I said. You want to be a writer young man or young woman? Then start writing.
Too often people start by designing then building elaborate online castles, that turn out to be reinventions of castles other people built, and then on opening day, have no idea what to do next. Why don't the people use it? Ahah, that's the real problem. By spending a lot of time thinking and planning and coding, you're just putting off the reckoning. You need to deal with that first. What do you have to say? Having an empty blog will raise that question, at the beginning, before you have a chance to bark up wrong trees.
I also said there's no curriculum and I meant it. It isn't some airy-fairy idea, I have hair on my chest, and a loud voice. Just kidding (well, I actually do). Why is there no curriculum? Because no one knows WTF we're doing, so how could we have a curriculum. It's like asking Lewis and Clark to have a curriculum for the Denver Nuggets. What are the Denver Nuggets, they might ask. I'm sure they passed through Denver on their exploration of the west, but there was no city there, and certainly no basketball team. See my point? You and your students are exploring the unknown.
On the other hand, there are some things that are known, the basics of journalism, how to do research, question the interests of your sources, disclosing your own interests, etc. That doesn't go away, but that's all in your Journalism 101 text. And there are writing skills and editing skills, all of that comes into play when writing, whether you're writing for print or bits.
And one other thing they don't usually teach in J-school (as far as I know) -- The Scientific Method. Please, let's be very very circumspect in stating our hypotheses, knowing what we know and don't know, and be careful not to have anyone say things they don't mean.
Philip Meyer: Journalism and the Scientific Tradition.