July 23, 2001-- Newsletter #140
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July 23, 2001--Newsletter #140
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Greetings, Weekend Silicon Warriors,
I was away this past weekend and returned to find over 350 emails in my "firstname.lastname@example.org" box. Over 50 were a new virus being sent around with the message in the body:
Hi! How are you?
I send you this file in order to have your advice
The virus is named "Sircam" and this one is a pain. If you open the file, it fills your hard drive's unused space with a text file. Virus companies think it came from Russia.
Watch those attachments. Open nothing.
Did you hear...
Finally! Good news on the Internet tech front. Yahoo's second quarter earnings have surpassed Wall Street expectations. The shares are up over a buck. Third quarter earnings are expected to be break-even. If they surpass that expectation, look for the stock to go up again. Maybe I should look into Yahoo with the extra couple of bucks I'm getting back from the government.
Microsoft expects to also beat earnings predictions, but a dark cloud still hangs overhead. The company will soon report a $2.6 billion investment loss. The bulk of the losses came from cable and telecommunication buys.
In a ruling sure to scare up some legal trouble, U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein ruled that Random House did not have the ability to stop Rosetta Books from releasing eight titles on Random House's backlist. The judge basically said that e-books came out after the original contracts and thus nothing was in them covering the new technology.
Now onto today's topic...
A couple of years ago I was invited to attend a meeting of university professors in New York City. It was just communications professors and only 75 were asked to attend. It was a pretty big deal.
One of the conference's afternoon trips was to the studios of a major cable news network (name omitted on purpose). We toured the studio and then were brought into a small lecture-style room where the head of the news operation addressed us and then took questions.
One of the professors asked what the news director looked for in a new hire. We were all communication professors so we were sitting back expecting to have our egos puffed up when he answered, "I don't like to hire communication majors".
I promise to you that those were his first words. I'm assuming he knew we were all communication professors so I'm guessing he tailored his words for us.
His logic was that the communication graduates he saw were too concerned with the presentation of the business and less concerned with the actual news and research side. The graduates he saw were more talking heads than journalists. This news director was less interested in someone who could read the NASDAQ numbers than in someone who actually knows what the NASDAQ represents.
I've remembered that in teaching my own classes. I always teach the basic tenets journalism in a journalism class, but stillthe delivery method always gets in the way. It has to.
Wired.com relayed a story regarding the question of whether to teach Web-based journalism or not. The two sides are fighting over basically what the news director above exemplified. Those who believe in journalism for journalism's sake argue that the concept of journalism is a topic unto itself. Eric Meyer, a professor at the University of Illinois School of Journalism, states that, these days, there's too much emphasis on the production aspect. He states, "We didn't used to teach typing".
Of course there's another viewpoint.
George Rorick, at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies claims that the presentation is part of the story. It helps deliver the message and in today's marketplace, Web- based journalism is a necessity.
Someone is going to immediately jump and proclaim that the solution is easy. Just teach two courses. One will be basic journalism and the other will be the production side of it.
I guess there is some logic to that but let's keep in mind that there are only so many teaching hours available and simply adding a class to a curriculum is rough, let alone getting it accepted as part of the required classes. Besides, I don't believe we need go that far.
Journalism is more than the quest for the story and adherence to correct writing styles. There is certainly a production aspect. To deny that is simply ignoring that we all watch the evening news. I lean to the idea that production is part of the process. I teach broadcast journalism which is an entirely different animal than print journalism. The writing style is different and the formatting is different. That alone proves to me that the production side of things must be involved.
Writing news for the Web is yet again a completely different animal from both broadcast and print news writing. The interactive element of a Web page throws yet another piece into the puzzle. I believe that interactive element must be taught right along with the tenets of journalism rather than apart from them.
Still, the question remains, "Is Web journalism true journalism?" When you get right down to it, I think that is the real concern.
The answer, in my mind, is a resounding, "yes" and it should be taught as such. However, just because I believe the performance aspect should be part of a journalism class doesn't mean I've forgotten the cable network's news director.
The performance aspect is still nowhere near as important as the student being taught the basics of journalism. I'm talking about the legwork. I'm talking about the research. I'm talking fact checking. I'm talking about remaining disinterested in the story's outcome. I'm talking about getting both sides. I'm talking about basic, fundamental, journalism. I'm talking about the stuff that makes students groan when assigned.
Performance and delivery are the icing on the journalism cake. That's what I believe. It's helping to create a rounded and prepared student. Journalism takes place in a market and that market is the delivery to the public.
I believe that the concepts of journalism and the flash of the Web can be taught within the same class and still create a student who understands the basics of the craft. However, I also believe that one must be taught before the other. The two may co-exist only if the journalism portion comes first. I actually intend to use Web programming as a reward in my broadcast journalism class.
If everyone in the class turns in all of their stories on time, I'll teach you to make some basic Web pages during the final two weeks of class. If you miss too many deadlines, we'll just keep writing.
What a deal.
Teaching is tough because as the class drags on, you have to come up with more and more methods of keeping the students interested. The students will adore making Web pages and it would be very easy for me to use that throughout the semester and focus on that aspect to the demise of the tenets of journalism. It may get me a better student evaluation, but it doesn't make a student the best person to hire.
These same arguments popped up when radio news came into being, when television news came into being, when cable news networks came into being, and they'll come up again when whatever-is-next comes into being.
Journalism will always have a technical and a performance side. To teach one without the other, I feel, is not telling the whole story.
And I believe that one of the basics of journalism is to telling the whole story.
That's that. Thanks for reading. I do like writing knowing you'll be reading.
Joe Burns, Ph.D.
And Remember: A geodesic dome is the only man-made structure that actually becomes stronger as it increases in size.