Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Death of Storytelling

Recently, I have read two different stories in two different papers about student journalism. It is strange to me that the media is covering themselves, that newspapers and journalism are the news. I've only been studying journalism for a short time, but I had the impression that the journalists, were supposed to be read but not ever seen -- so to speak.
Though, as the death of print becomes the news, the media finally has a chance to talk about themselves.

The first article I read was in the Annapolis, Md. paper, The Capital. The reporter told the story of Broadneck High School's newspaper who is putting their publication completely online. The newspaper's staff is afraid that putting their paper online will diminish their presence at their school.

The second article was in the Baltimore Sun and it said despite the uncertainty of journalism's future, enrollment in journalism schools is steadily increasing.

The ultimate question is: What do journalism students have to look forward to? Whatever comes after the death of print, it is sure to be something unprecedented. So, if this is something new and no one is sure what is going to happen, how are we supposed to be taught? We are taught by professors who experience is in print, the dying medium.

We are blindly preparing ourselves, dedicating ourselves and hoping that whichever path we take is the right one.

On game shows, they sometimes show three doors and say, choose the right one for a new car, or something similar. I feel that is the state of student journalism: We have to choose the right door. Instead of playing the luck game, we as students are told to prepare for it all:

Learn to write in print AND online.
Learn to make/edit video and be a broadcast journalist.
Learn to be a photographer and make slideshows.
Learn HTML so you can build your own website.
Learn to Design your own graphics and layout your own paper.
Be a mathematician, a politician, a caregiver, an educator.

Journalism students are the ultimate students because instead of mastering a specific field, we are expected to learn them all. If we want to succeed in journalism, we must have something that no one else has, and do it better than anyone else does.

And on top of it all, we still need to be good, precise, unbiased and compelling reporters. We still have to learn how to interview someone, how to research and report a story, how to write a lead under 35 words and above all, how to make a deadline.

While print is moving gracefully to the grave, it is my belief that the need for news will never die. People want to be informed, want to criticize their government, read about car accidents, discuss movie stars and hear about a child who won a battle against Cancer -- they just don't want to pay for print when they can read it online.

So, in the midst of mourning print, perhaps we as journalism students should embrace the future. We should be grateful that we have so many different ways to enhance our stories. We don't necessarily have to decide "Print" or "Broadcast" as a major. We can make our words literally come to life and that is something that should be celebrated.

If we are good reporters and geniuenly care about our work, it will be read - one way or the other. So the best we can do as students is to learn, wish for the best and well, hope we don't end up working at Barnes and Noble.


healthcarevoice said...

I agree that is the way I was taught in the 1970s. We print reporters used to laugh at the TV reporters, putting on their make-up before doing a stand up close for their story. Few people knew what the print reporters looked like -- that had its advantages.

The biggest change I see is the use of unnamed sources. We were required to have true, independent corroboration for allegations made by sources, and the lawyers, working with privilege, ran us through the mill before an investigative story was printed.

What I have learned is that the cable news channels, with the promise of 24/7 news and broader coverage, have failed us. Fox News has so little actual news. Perhaps MSNBC is the only one that is worse about actual news content. Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Meadow, Matthews, et al are NOT news shows. They are opinion/analysis shows and not much of the latter. Just because Keith Olbermann or Sean Hannity say it does not make it so.

What a mess. The failure of the news media to do its job – at least half the people should be mad at you at any one time about a story you wrote – does not bode well for our democracy.

Melanie Gilkerson said...

As a journalism student, I am taught never to use unnamed sources -- I think it is for a very good reason.

I completely agree that cable news channels are a let down. Especially Fox News. Were these reporters not taught the same things I am learning now? Were they not taught to remain unbiased and report the news fairly? Using partisan filters while reporting is misleading and perhaps detrimental to those who watch it.

What advice do you have for journalism students?