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June 30, 2007

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Chuck

I absolutely agree that the teaching of journalism has to take into consideration the changing world of information gathering that the Internet provides, but I am not surprised that the bricks and mortar educational institutions are having problems knowing what to teach. We had the same problem when I took a journalism degree 30 years ago.

I am glad you are working on this and happy to know the others you mentioned are as well.

A few thoughts.
The reader needs to be educated as much as the writer - about how to judge a source, a story, for reliability.

Part of the response of the journalism industry to the shifting reality of the on-line world needs to be an examination of the functions of journalism - not only the business of selling celeb news, but in actually providing information that is useful in helping society deal with its problems.

News should no longer just be about quoting the two sides of an argument (balanced fair comment) but actually trying to get us all closer to what we know or do not know about the problems facing us. As Al Gore's book points out (claims?), there is 95% agreement about the reality of global warming in the scientific community, and 50% disagreement about it in the press. (pardon me if the quote is not exact.) If the news is defined as a man biting a dog, does that bias coverage to generate confusion? If so, whether you are an on-line journalist, blogger or other, how do you guide your writing to promote understanding rather than simply prolong controversy? And even if that appears to be anti-commercial in the current environment, given the Wikipedian capabilities of the current on-line world, is it possible for us to create vehicles of aggregate checked knowledge that will help us pass on reliable education rapidly and in such a way that it provides a powerful tool for societies to resolve their problems? And does so in a way that competes commercially with the celeb babble that increasingly dominates mass media.

Critical to understanding and using on-line journalism is an understanding of the powerful tools of hyper-links which can put at the readers instant retrieval all the background information needed to catch up with whatever topic is being written about.

I totally agree with your comment that media literacy is critical as a part of education, not only caveat emptor smarts for on line consumption of information but also ethical questions in creating any media.

I very much like the language of the preamble to the Declaration of Prinicples quoted above, except that I take exception to the initial idea that a journalist "must master a complex body of knowledge" to be able to serve society in many ways. Some will need to master the knowledge, and it is good that a body of knowledge is being formed, but the commitment to be responsible is the key. It is a difficult sell in a commercial world, but it is critical that this sense of responsibility be taught, learned and soaked into the bone of anyone who calls themselves a journalist.

You said there is no standard curriculum for teaching on-line journalism. That seems like a good thing, as it is evolving by the minute. But it seems to me, a critical part of the process must be to look at, read, analyze and discuss every thing that can be seen on-line as news or effecting the news, from candidates on YouTube to the blogosphere to the increasing integration of front-line news organizations breaking news and their archives. It seems like an exciting topic to be teaching at an exciting time. I look forward to following your progress and if you feel isolated, feel free to drop me a line. If nothing else, I will reassure you that you are doing good necessary work.


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