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Backpack Journalism Rules

Edgar Huang Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Historical attitude toward BJ


In a 2002 article (http://www.ojr.org/ojr/workplace/10177 71634.php) in Online Journalism Review, Matha Stone called backpack journalists a mush of mediocrity. She wrote: However, the do-it-all journalists should be the exception, not the rule.

BRIDGING
Newsrooms
and

Classrooms

Preparing the Next Generation of Journalists for Converged Media

Huang, E., Davison, K., Davis, T., Bettendorf, E., Shreve, S. and Nair, A. (2006, Autumn). Journalism and Communication Monographs. Vol. 8, No. 3, pp. 221-262.

Bridging Newsrooms and Classrooms

What is media convergence?


In this 2003 study, Huang et al identified four levels of media convergence

Corporate merger or alliance


Form/technological convergence Content convergence

Role convergence

Bridging Newsrooms and Classrooms

Convergence calls for role change


A new breed of journalists converged journalists is expected.

Teaming is good, but converged journalists will be in an advantageous position.


For the news company, they are efficient and effective employees. For journalists themselves, they are more marketable and gain more sense of achievement.

Bridging Newsrooms and Classrooms

Two questions in the nutshell:


Should J-schools train specialists or fit-for-all generalists? How should college journalism education balance the teaching of critical thinking and the teaching of technical skills?

Bridging Newsrooms and Classrooms

2.

Should J-schools train specialists or generalists?


The majority of the respondents (84%) agreed or strongly agreed that journalism students should learn how to write for multiple media platforms. The majority of the respondents (85%) agreed that journalism students with a visual emphasis should learn how to produce and edit photos, videos and online interactive images.

Most respondents (78%) agreed or strongly agreed that all journalism majors should learn multiple sets of skills, such as writing, editing, TV production, digital photography and Web design.

Bridging Newsrooms and Classrooms

2.

Should J-schools train specialists or generalists? (cont.)


When asked whether journalism students should still have a specialization, such as writing, photojournalism, broadcasting and new media, over half (63%) of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed. Over a quarter of the respondents (28%) were negative and 9% were not sure.

Bridging Newsrooms and Classrooms

2.

Should J-schools train specialists or generalists? (cont.)


When asked whether journalism sequences should be reorganized considering the trend of media-platforms merging in the industry, 56% of the professors agreed or strongly agreed, 22% were not sure, 22% disagreed or strongly disagreed.

Bridging Newsrooms and Classrooms

2.

Should J-schools train specialists or generalists? (cont.)


Flexible is a key term repeatedly seen in the respondents textual answers as a suggestion for training future journalists. A professor wrote: We cant teach for the now. We have to prepare students for when they graduate which in most instances is now five years out. And, we feel a commitment to expose them to all types of writing in all platforms so they can be flexible about their career choice at the front end of their academics. Then, they can apply the skills to a specialty area where they are totally proficient.

Bridging Newsrooms and Classrooms

5.

What skills do news professionals need to learn most at their current positions?
Editors list Good writing Multimedia production Critical thinking New technology News professionals list Good writing Multimedia production New technology Computer-assisted reporting Visual production Critical thinking Time management

1 2 3 4

5
6 7

8 9

Computer-assisted reporting Visual production Time management Second language On-camera exposure

Second language On-camera exposure

Bridging Newsrooms and Classrooms

Conclusions (continued)
Respondents with different academic and professional backgrounds share the same conviction. That is, reporting news in multiple media platforms will be tomorrows way news is presented; dealing with media convergence in college journalism education is an urgent necessity. The wait-and-see strategy will place a J-school in a disadvantaged position over the long run.

Bridging Newsrooms and Classrooms

Conclusions (continued)
Generalists are needed in the industry though such needs may not be necessarily converted into requirements in job ads for a while. The needs for superhack masters of multimedia are out there, but whether the training of such superhack masters will become a norm largely depends on whether J-schools are willing to and able to develop those avant-garde courses. Students also need to learn to cooperate and collaborate across newsrooms.

Bridging Newsrooms and Classrooms

Conclusions (continued)
Attitude and aptitude, together with time management ability, will be the key to producing quality work in newsrooms. The concerns that students being trained in multiple media platforms will be jacks of trades but masters of none are not grounded.

Backpackers Rule
In 2005, Mark Hamilton, a former journalist and a then journalism instructor in Vancouver, BC, highly praised backpackers. He was so excited about the BJ idea that he wrote: In fact, if I were 19 again and starting out as a journalist, Id do whatever it took to be a backpack journalist.

BJ Has Became Mainstream


In 2006, the Institute for Interactive Journalism began to award BJ.

BJ Has Became Mainstream


Gannett Broadcasting ran a backpack journalism program in early 2007.

BJ Has Became Mainstream

BJ Has Became Mainstream


At the Journal News in White Plains, New York Deputy Managing Editor for Presentation Larry Nylund, says, The list of qualifications we look for in a photojournalism applicant just got a lot longer. Why? The photo department in now known as the multimedia department, Nylund says. We are looking for talented people who can step in with the skills needed to tell visual stories in many different ways. The photographers in Nylunds department contribute to the newspaper, magazines, weekly tabloids, a television station and a Website. Photographers carry still and video cameras, laptops, cell phones. The company now has video and audio studios.

My New Study
This year, I completed a study Media convergence and young audience: Finding a converging point, in which I concluded, True convergence, based on the findings from this study, however, needs to be realized on the Internet. As the current generations of people in the ages of 40 and above, it is very likely that the paper part of newspaper will gradually become a nostalgic concept, and TV and radio will be assimilated into online news presentations.

My New Study
In the years to come, a true convergence
will mean that the news industry provides the younger generation an experience of consuming multimedia news that is customizable and relevant to them all online through computers or other more convenient and less expensive hand-held devices with an opportunity for audience to be easily engaged in participatory journalism.

The Point Is
Backpack journalism education should become the standard for future journalists.