Monday, June 1, 2015

Summer: Time to reflect, rebuild and replenish the journalism toolbox

Screen grab of a social media tool search.
   For many college students on break, summer is all about relaxing, partying, traveling or working for tuition money.
   Unless they are attending summer school, there is no homework to ruin much-needed downtime for the brain.
   But for university instructors (and I probably speak for many), much of our summer is spent doing homework.
   I use summer to catch up on what’s new in the journalism industry, and to update lesson plans that reflect modern trends of storytelling.
   Thinking back, it seemed that being a journalism student was less tasking in the good ole days. Now I’m simplifying here, but we students primarily learned the traditional skills of interviewing, writing and editing. The basic tools included a typewriter, paper and pens for reporters; and a film camera and wet darkroom for photojournalists.
   And back then only editors had the capacity to design and disseminate news on a printed page. Oh, how I remember those design tools fondly: Xacto knives, pica poles and whiz wheels… oh my.
   I will never forget the beloved Xacto knife, which nearly cut off a couple of my fingers while finishing a page design for The Huachuca Scout military newspaper in Arizona. Not a fond memory.
   But journalism tools now a days? OH… MY… GOD!
   There are so many (countless, really) that I fear it’s impossible to teach students everything they need to know to succeed in the 21st Century. How can we possibly keep up with the industry standards when there are so, so many tools?
   Social media tools are supposed to make our lives easier, right? There is no doubt they are a necessity. So, I’m thinking the best plan is to keep it simple.
   I recently read somewhere that journalists shouldn’t maintain more than three social media tools at a time. If I go by that advise, then I need to determine the most important social media tools that I think students should know. Are they Twitter, Facebook and Instagram? Snap Chat is wanting in on the game now, and You Tube is no slouch.  
   And how we need to contain them? Consider Rebel Mouse and TweetDeck.
  Need to congregate a bunch of similar topics together, or looking for similar topics to add to your story? Try Storify or Storyful.
  How about live storytelling? Download Evrybit or Periscope on your smart phones.
  Do you get my point?
   I decided to write this blog post because I was searching for new tools to teach my photojournalism students next semester, and I wanted to share that I’ve found more than I bargained for.

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