Uncertainty and excitement have been injected into the education and journalism industries thanks to technological disruption. Combined, it’s an almighty headache for wannabe hacks looking to break into the trade, let alone the myriad of courses – NCTJ and BJTC diplomas, BAs, MAs, graduate school and apprenticeships – they face. Newsroom bosses and J-school professors are up against the same shifting business and educational models, with the Internet 2.0 and smartphone saturation providing an abundance of information across multi-platforms at most times of the day.
It’s a whirlwind environment, where podcasts are booming one minute and ‘viral-websites’ are cutting jobs the next, so how do teachers of the trade keep up? For that answer I turned to Paul Bradshaw, author (Online Journalism Handbook, Mobile-First Journalism and Scraping for Journalists) and Birmingham School of Media lecturer. Paul, who is also the founder and editor of he Online Journalism Blog, is almost uniquely placed to answer my question: he's been thinking and solving these journalism education-related problems for years.
"...One important thing is designing modules so they are flexible enough to adapt to rapid change," Paul told me. "I wouldn't have a module dedicated to a particular technology, for example, because you can't guarantee that technology is going to be as relevant or important in a few years' time. Instead, I tend to try to design modules that can follow change – for instance, I have a module called Disruptive Publishing, which covers new technologies and practices, but what those are will vary from year to year."
In other words, students (and in-work journalists) should have the skills to adapt to any new technology, not just one in particular. "We can't just 'teach Vine', and then the student leaves and they're asked to be in charge of TikTok," Paul explained.
"So, getting students to research a particular medium and develop those skills of getting to grips with a new technology – that's useful. [Last] week I worked with my students to identify a person who's working with a new technology (e.g. Snapchat editor) and approach them to do an interview about their tips – that's developing both their journalism skills, and contacts, as well as their knowledge."
As for his thoughts on the future, Paul urged his peers to keep an 'open-mind': "...journalism might look very different in the future – and part of our role is to provide the environment for our students to discover and create that."
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