Archive for the ‘Education’ Category


Education: A global value

WGBH's studios in Boston, whose mission was summarized as helping people cope with the world and their own lives. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

WGBH’s studios in Boston, whose mission was summarized as helping people cope with the world and their own lives. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In the 1970s and 1980s, the public broadcasting station WGBH in Boston began and ended its day with the airing of a small montage, telling viewers in New England about its role.

In that montage was a simple summary of its mission: “Our purpose is to help you cope better with the world and your own life.”

For WGBH, it applied not just to their viewers in Boston and throughout New England, but through the programs it produced nationally, either through PBS or its partnership with public radio distributor PRI.

Embodying that summary was the value of education, and the notion that education can come from mediums like television, and make a difference in the lives of all people. Education can be for everyone, no matter who they are or their background, for at heart, we are all lifelong learners. We can be taught and we can be inspired through thought-provoking, stimulating, engaging, and some entertaining content.

Education is at the heart of journalism, and as the United States celebrates the 4th of July, it is something that remains integral to its foundation, and we as journalists celebrate the ability to be able to produce content that can inform, engage, but most importantly, educate.

Education however is not solely an American value. It is a global value, a value that is practiced by journalists here and around the world. Indeed, education is a global value in a journalistic sense, for in the digital age, content that is made in newspapers, radio, television or online can be construed as education, and ideas for stories can be taken from anywhere.

We enter this profession not to seek fame or fortune. Instead, we enter this profession because of our ability to be able to educate. We enter because our focus is not on financial gain, but on the people to whom we serve in our work. We enter because we know the work we do together can do the most good.

Yet, the culture of journalism that has come as the industry evolves has raised questions on how that education can be conducted, and if it can be conducted at all. As the line between news and comment becomes blurred, and more platforms, especially through social media, become available for this content, can education remain a quintessential focus of journalism, or has it become a lost art?

Raney Aronson-Rath, the executive producer of Frontline, a program that embodies the educational spirit of journalism. (Photo: Knight Foundation/Flickr)

Raney Aronson-Rath, the executive producer of Frontline, a program that embodies the educational spirit of journalism. (Photo: Knight Foundation/Flickr)

As this industry continues through its state of flux, arguments can be made on both sides. On one hand the sole focus is now going viral, and that attention comes solely through the click of a mouse. On the other hand, there is potential, and even though there are questions, it can continue.

Education is at the heart of what I do, and the heart of what we all do. We are in uncertain waters, asking ourselves many questions. Will the young graduate, journalism degree in hand, be able to have a successful, viable career? Will those in the industry be able to adapt to this new age? Most importantly, can the industry we all love, irrespective of medium, survive, and can we accomplish the ultimate goal we have in journalism — the ability to educate?

I believe that we can, though it may appear difficult right now. Education is a value that remains at the crux of journalism, and it is something that we should never take for granted. The platforms are going to change, and how we disseminate and curate news will too, but one thing is for sure — the ability to educate the public, and to help them cope better with the world and their own lives, will remain a constant.

Yet, we must not let it get lost in the shuffle. We must now take the time to support, advocate for and champion this value, whether it is supporting the public broadcasters, the media organizations and the individuals and storytellers that emphasize it, advocating for our ability to disseminate and educate, or championing the ideas that strengthen journalism’s role in education, irrespective of race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Education is at is at the heart of what we can do in journalism, now and in the future. It is a global value, not just through geography, but through the mediums of journalism, and on this day of all days, it is something we must not disregard. Instead, we should do what is best and embrace it, not just for those to whom we serve, but for ourselves.

After all, the world is better when it is informed, and we must never take that for granted.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Why the world needs journalism students

In the final scene of the legendary sitcom Frasier, as the eponymous character prepares to embark on a new chapter in his life and career, he sits at the microphone at fictitious Seattle radio station KACL and recites a passage from Ulysses, the poem by Lord Tennyson.

I think about it now as I sit down and write this blog post, conscious of the fact that many journalism students, as well as some of my colleagues and the student writers I work with at Kettle Magazine, are completing their degrees, and contemplating their next steps.

In that poem, as Frasier interprets it, it is about taking that chance. As the idea of journalism evolves in the digital age, many of us within the past few years (myself included), have rolled the dice to see if we can be able to work in a profession that matters so much to society, for fear of regret later in life.

We have asked ourselves many questions as we shook and rolled the dice. Am I able to get a job? Will the work I do be meaningful? Can I make a useful contribution to the profession itself? We wonder if all of our work will pay off, or if we went down the conventional path only to find a dead end, and that everything we have done and hoped for will never come to fruition.

Students graduate university, ready for what's next. (Photo: DariaRomanova/Wikimedia Commons)

Students graduate university, ready for what’s next. (Photo: DariaRomanova/Wikimedia Commons)

But you needn’t worry yourself, for you, dear journalism student, are still needed and valued. You will be successful, yet you may face difficulties along the way.

Even though journalism is changing, journalists are still a necessity, no matter the platform, a point emphasized especially by the former New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan. The men and women of this industry, irrespective of medium, are making a contribution that has no price tag, even though the business of journalism is trying to figure out the best way to monetize the offerings.

The idea of journalism in the 21st century has evolved, most notably because of the internet and social media. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram are becoming hubs for content, while the line between news and comment is being blurred, raising questions on the value of facts and accurate information. However, there is an important relationship our society has with journalism — it can inform and engage, which helps our democracy.

It has been at the foundation of the industry’s development, from the beginnings of newspapers and the printing press, to the invention of radio and television, and now the rise of the internet and social platforms. The people who entered this profession were like you — they were not after fame or fortune, but they wanted to make a difference, improve the quality of life, and to help improve the civil discourse by informing and engaging the public to help them make decisions in their everyday tasks.

Many people have proclaimed that journalism is dead, but that isn’t true. You have a purpose in this ever changing media landscape, to hold politicians and powerful people to account, to put context on the events that matter, to shine a light on this ever-changing world we live in, but most importantly to inform the individuals that matter most — your audience.

You will still have a role in journalism, for you are bound to do great things, exciting things, wonderful things, and in the end, you will have the knowledge that you are doing the most good you can for people around you.

The mediums may change, but the norm remains the same. The world always needs journalists, and you, graduating journalism student, will always be needed, not just now, but in the days, months and years ahead.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

One experience can change everything

The SPA member badge, which is displayed on my web site. (Photo: SPA)

The SPA member badge, which is displayed on my web site. (Photo: SPA)

This weekend, in Loughborough in the English Midlands, a few of my colleagues and their peers are getting together for the Student Publication Association‘s annual conference.

At the helm of the conference are sessions on honing the journalistic craft, alongside awards, networking and the ability to celebrate the work of these student publications up and down the UK.

The timing of their meeting comes at an interesting time for media in Britain, as The Independent, once the UK’s youngest newspaper, ended a 30 year run in print to become a digital only publication.

In addition, there are continued talks in Parliament about the future of the BBC, as its Royal Charter comes up for renewal next year, as the publications owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation continue to make headlines ahead of Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking.

Indeed, student media in the UK too has not had it easy recently, something observed in my writing and coverage of British media, from censorship of The Badger, the student newspaper of The Badger at the University of Sussex in southern England in the beginning of the academic year, to the threat of expulsion raised by University College London against one of its students, Rebecca Pinnington, for something she wrote for Pi Media, the university’s student media hub.

Yet, aside from the questions surrounding the future of media in the UK, and the issues surrounding student media, there is a common thread between my colleagues and their peers. Indeed, it is the reason why people the world over go into journalism — they do it not to seek fame or fortune, but to do a service for their communities, large or small, irrespective of beat.

Many of those in attendance at that conference are either journalism students, or students studying a variety of subjects, including English Literature, History, Politics and Economics, hoping to either pursue an MA in journalism or go to a training course to obtain an NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) qualification. They’ve done work placements at broadcasters, newspapers or web sites, and also worked in student media.

But irrespective of what they study, and the route they plan to take, they all have one thing in common — they believe in journalism and the Fourth Estate, the role it has in a democracy, and the role it can have to help millions of people cope better with the world around them. All they want to do is tell stories and make a difference. They want to be a part of journalism’s future, even as the industry itself around the world goes through changes.

I think of this as this week marks four years since I joined Kettle Magazine, a fellow SPA member (I also, for the record, hold a personal membership with the Association). Even though I am working 3,000 miles away from the UK, I have been able to receive a unique education.

The people I have met, who have become my friends, and the ability to help the next generation of journalists ignited the passion for why I wanted to go into journalism, and the sort of work I want to do. Its a reason why I signed up to be an SPA member, and why recently I renewed my membership with SPJ for another year. Its an education I am deeply grateful for, an education I hope to continue receiving, and an education I hope I can experience on the ground in due course.

They’ve also reinforced one other thing — irrespective of platform, and where the industry goes, there is always going to be a need for journalists. Indeed, even in this digital age, no matter what country your from, it takes one experience to remind you why you sought to enter this profession, and the rewards that come from it.

And that is worth celebrating, not just today, but every day.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The importance of notifications

As Twitter celebrates its tenth birthday, its influence on journalism has become significant. As part of a series leading up and celebrating its tenth birthday, SPJ Digital is looking at Twitter’s influence, as well as best practices and advice.

Here, Alyssa Bloechl, of the Door County Advocate in Wisconsin, considers notifications on Twitter and the culture of reporting on the platform.

Twitter, which celebrated its tenth birthday March 21, has allowed journalists to engage with audiences in new ways. (Photo via Anthony Quintano/Flickr under CC)

There are an exponential amount of ways a journalist can use Twitter in their work, be it learning about breaking news, connecting with sources or live-tweeting an event. However, a recent exchange with someone in my community got me to thinking about how the Twitter accounts of journalists can be tools for readers.

Obviously, Twitter is a way to share breaking news that readers look to retweet, but I think more day-to-day tweets from journalists sharing their finished stories or reporting from an important meeting are not necessarily getting the attention they deserve.

The exchange, concerning a coming major detour routing through the downtown business district, went as follows:

Me: “Hi, how are you? Do you have a few minutes?”

Source: “Yeah, I’m free. You want to talk about the detour?

Me: “Um, yes. How did you know that’s why I was calling?”

Source: “I saw your tweet and figured out why you’d be calling. I get notifications for all of your tweets.”

I was stunned. She has notifications for me, a person with under 600 followers and an unverified account.

As a tweeter for some time, I began reflecting on this. I was mostly honored to learn she sees ALL of my tweets, but then nervous she might turn them off when she realized I don’t tweet just stuff I’m working on. (I’ve recently gotten into the fun habit of tweeting with GIFs.)

The Twitter snob in me thought, what worth would all of my tweets have for her? I only turn on the notifications on an account when I know a local journalist or news source is covering a breaking event and I need/want to keep up on what they are saying. Once the event is over, I turn them off.

Alyssa Bloechl of The Door County Advocate in Wisconsin says notifications can help engagement on Twitter, especially for community reporters. (Photo via LinkedIn)

After some thought, I tried to put myself in my source’s shoes. She is the director of a local tourist organization and a well-known community member. If I were in her position, it would be to my benefit to keep up on the day-to-day tweets of a journalist, as they would typically tweet about local news and ongoing stories, which would help me in my work.

She mentioned she appreciates all of my tweets when reporting at city meetings and she even mentioned a string of live tweets I had put together while in the courtroom a few days before.

I have concluded that it is entirely possible that people other people may use Twitter notifications to source local journalists. As a result, I took to Twitter!

Through a poll, I encouraged followers to tell me if they 1) Use notifications, 2) Do not use notifications or 3) Do not know what notifications are. I referenced this as a way they may gather the news on the social network.

As a low-profile account, I got a grand total of 11 responses. 45 percent of those polled indicated they do not use notifications, 36 percent do use them and 19 percent did not know what they were.

It’s not much to work with in terms of the millions that use Twitter, but I believe that margin between using notifications and not can be closed with the right marketing. If journalists took the opportunity to encourage readers and followers to turn on notifications for their tweets, I think communities will have opportunity to be more informed.

That information can empower further sharing and possible social action based on what the journalist is tweeting about while on the job.

I also think if journalists are also thinking about people actually reading all of their tweets and the writer is not just sending characters off into a mass of other tweets, we may become more thoughtful and responsible when tweeting for our audience.

We local journalists can make a difference, encourage readership and tweet responsibly and ethically about their community’s happenings. I know I’ll be working on getting more people to turn on notifications.

Alyssa Bloechl, an SPJ member, is a reporter with the Door County Advocate in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. You can interact with Bloechl on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Tips on Writing a Digital Story

With society becoming more digitalized, journalists  too must adapt to the changes, along with how create a story in the digital age.

With society becoming more digitalized, journalists too must adapt to the changes, along with how create a story in the digital age.


“The social media aspect was something that was just not there five years ago,” said Nick Komjati a student studying to become a sports reporter at the EW Scripps School of Journalism, which is a part of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

With print newspaper readership and sales declining at a rapid pace, and social media consumption skyrocketing, students and professional journalists alike are now learning how to write, film and produce stories in the newly digitalized format.

Brett Atwood, the director of integrated communication at Washington State University, posted a lecture titled “Multimedia Reporting”. Here are some of the main points of the lecture and how some big tech companies are helping journalists with this change.

Before discussing how to write a digital story, it’s important to understand what web journalism is, and how it differs from print journalism. “Web Journalism” consists of breaking news, links of credible sources, along with social media integration and reader interactivity.

Unlike print journalism, journalists have many more freedoms, in terms of writing and crafting a story in the digitalized format. Some of these differences include stories that are read or presented in a non-linear fashion and the writer has unlimited space to write the story. With the unlimited space, reporters can now break up longer stories into chunks and during breaking news situations, stories can now be updated quickly, with the latest information. Also, reporters now have the option to embed polls and slideshows, along with audio and video pieces that are relevant to their story, to help readers better comprehend what they’re reading.

So how can you write a the perfect digital story that’s both appealing and informative?

Links

Links can be a very important factor in your story as it can show readers where you got your information, whether that be a report or a study from another site, but there are a few components you need to remember when utilizing links within your story. First, don’t overdo it on links, for it can possibly completely redirect readers from your story and the site on which it was published. By doing so, you will not only lose readership on your story, but your publisher’s site will lose its revenue from ads. Also, use only quality links and beware of the integrity of the site you’re linking to for it may contain hidden spyware or illegal content, even if it pertains to your story.

Headlines

As in any story, the headline is more critical than ever. It can help determine how or if your story gets indexed on keyword searches on Google or any other internet browser. It also serves as a tease to persuade the reader to continue to read your story.

Social Media

Just like many other businesses utilizing social media to help promote their brand or their services, social media is critical for discovery and distribution of your reporting. It can also be used to help research topics and roundup sources. With social media sites being the number one source for breaking news sources, it helps draw people to view your story.

Huge tech giants are also helping aid journalist in enhancing their online stories. Services such as Google News Lab, Facebook Media and Twitter for News all alow you to embed widgets and add ons to your reporting to help with the apperance and user interactivty in your story.

Enhancing a Digital Story Even More

By embedding photo galleries and slideshows into your stories, it helps give your readers a clearer picture into what’s occurring in your story. Soundslides and Slideshare are both great and user-friendly software with which to start.

Cutline Captions

When using photographs in a story it’s always important to remember to include a cutline caption in every photograph used, so the reader can understand why that particular photo is significant to the story. When labeling a photograph it’s helpful to remember the who, what, when, where, why and how the photo was taken.

With technology constantly changing and evolving, Atwood says online journalists need to know how to write, shoot and record. “Be prepared to do it all, including audio, video editing and maybe even some light coding,” he said.

Watch Bred Atwood’s full Multimedia lecture here:

Examples of interactive articles:

http://www.nytimes.com/newsgraphics/2013/07/21/silk-road/

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/22/business/in-climbing-income-ladder-location-matters.html?_r=0

http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2012/snow-fall/#/?part=tunnel-creek

http://www.dtelepathy.com/blog/inspiration/20-examples-of-long-form-content-with-great-ux-design

Follow me on Twitter: @jonathanhmayes

Transparency for All

I wake up anxious every day, just to find out what Obama will be doing in the afternoon.

Okay, that’s not entirely true.  Perhaps my enthusiasm for The New York Times Now newsletter has got me a little carried away.

The era of digital journalism is upon us, where we consumers can uncover the president’s whereabouts, the history of Pac Man, and the leaked merger of two media companies before their employees even hear of the negotiations –– all at the tap of a screen and the stroke of a thumb.

It seems that everything is and can be known, while nothing is secret or sacred for long.  With trust comes a yearning for greater transparency, a transparency that was once denied by all.

We have yet to experience an age of fluid, free-for-all information in America as we encounter today.

Those inspirational posters in elementary schools across the country speak at least one truth: knowledge, I’ve come to learn, is power.  The masses are no longer deposited in darkness, shackled from the bitter underbelly of reality.  We can touch the truth, the stories from the “other side” –– if only we so choose.

I never appreciated how journalists have truly become the gatekeepers of society’s information until I thought about President Obama and his endless, ever-changing agenda.  If I didn’t have the thorough research, wit and intellect of journalists at the Times, I’d have absolutely no concept of the events occurring in Washington D.C., let alone with whom the president was having lunch.  I’d be clueless and unawares in my small hometown of Ohio (a state that nobody ever cares about until election season starts).

You see, I’d know the high school choir and band rosters for next school year, the best price for blueberries from the local groceries, that the house across the street is for sale.  But I wouldn’t have any concept of the tragedies in Nepal, have read BuzzFeed’s bulletproof resumé advice, or know that John Kerry broke his leg in Europe earlier this week.

I’d be left in blissful, mind-numbing ignorance, but I’d be none the wiser.

I read articles, I follow journalists because there is always something more for me to gain.  I marvel at how I will never, ever stop learning in this life, so long as I choose to keep exploring.

Journalists pave the path for discovery, for intrigue, for curiosity.  We are forever indebted to their services, their tireless effort to share with us, the audience, another glimpse of the world beyond our front door.

So next time you share a story with a friend –– a story that took place beyond your ivory tower town –– pause, and retweet a journalist.  You only know so much as your fellow human beings let you know, so support the journalists who tire away for your attention.  They’re doing this for you.

Bethany N. Bella is studying Journalism, Political Science and Environmental Studies at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at bethanybella.com

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Learning from Chicago’s social runoff

Rahm Emanuel, who won re-election as Chicago mayor after the first runoff in city history. (Photo: danxoneil/Flickr under CC)

Rahm Emanuel, who won re-election as Chicago mayor after the first runoff in city history. (Photo: danxoneil/Flickr under CC)

On April 7, Rahm Emanuel was re-elected as the Mayor of Chicago in the first runoff for the office in the history of the city.

Emanuel, known to many as a Congressman and the former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, defeated Cook County commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, 56 percent to 44 percent. The runoff came after an election earlier in February where no candidate had reached a majority of votes.

As the runoff campaign took place, Twitter had become a hub for reporting on the campaign, and for Lauren Chooljian, the City Hall reporter for NPR station WBEZ, she wanted it to become a core tool in her telling the story of the campaign.

“Because there was so much interest in the runoff (we hadn’t been there before), I wanted to be as open and transparent as possible,” Chooljian said in a telephone interview, noting she wanted to do snapshots of the campaign, with views also from voters. “As the race was ebbing and flowing (days that some thought Garcia performed better or Emanuel performed better), I did snapshots and longer pieces. I was tweeting much more often too.”

With the large profile this had gotten not just in the city, but also nationally on a political scale, Twitter had become a new way to engage not only those interested, but also attract new audiences. Chooljian had been getting followers from RTs from WBEZ’s Twitter account as well as from other followers.

However, Chooljian says, the traditional on the ground reporting still played a central role.

“Face time still means the most to the Mayor and Garcia,” Chooljian said. “All the tweets in the world can’t do what showing up and doing reporting can do. It can move the stories out further and get people involved.  I have no idea how many people hear my stories, but some of my tweets can go all over the place. Twitter is a way to reach a different segment of our audience.”

Chooljian looked at the human aspect as well of the story, trying to build the longer story of the campaign and the affect on the people of the city, and with Twitter, Chooljian said it made a difference as far as audiences go. She will continue to share her stories as she did with the campaign, and will cover City Hall the same way – trying to find that human interest, as well as information that is necessary to know.

“When it’s a big talking point, I’ll tweet about it,” Chooljian said. “It gets the info out and engages new audiences. That is when Twitter becomes a new tool for us.”

Yet, the bottom line for all journalists, Chooljian says, is trust in your reporting from audiences, whether or not it is on social media.

“If they trust your reporting, they will trust your reporting however you give it to them.”

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, blogs on social media’s role in journalism for Net Worked, and serves as Community Coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also is Deputy Editor, Media Editor and a writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

Verify, verify, verify, especially on social media

The Journalism School at New York's Columbia University issued a report April 5 regarding inaccuracies in a Rolling Stone story. (Photo - mathewingram/Flickr under CC)

The Journalism School at New York’s Columbia University issued a report April 5 regarding inaccuracies in a Rolling Stone story. (Photo – mathewingram/Flickr under CC)

One of the biggest talking points in the journalism world at this writing is the just released report from the Columbia Journalism School on the story in Rolling Stone magazine regarding rape at the University of Virginia.

The report, which notes failures that could have been avoided, also has implications for those working in social media and digital journalism.

Indeed, while social media has changed not only how news is consumed, but also how it can be reported, the big point still remains, to verify, verify, verify.

My SPJ colleague, Andrew Seaman, the chairman of the Ethics Committee, reached by email, says verification is crucial irrespective of platform.

“It’s incredibly important to recognize that verification and attribution is as important as it is for journalists reporting for print and broadcast media,” Seaman said. “The Society’s Code of Ethics is written with the understanding that all journalism – no matter where it occurs – is journalism. In all cases, speed nor format excuses inaccuracy. Currently, journalists are fortunate to have social media and other easily available sources to corroborate or verify stories. The trick is for journalists to use these avenues as tool – not excuses.”

Indeed, as Carole McNall, an SPJ Digital member and Assistant Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at St. Bonaventure University in New York state, in a note on the social networking site Twitter, indicates, Rolling Stone should do more to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

“[Rolling Stone]’s apparent belief that they need to change nothing guarantees it’ll happen again,” McNall said.

For journalists, social media has allowed a new experience in how we consume and report the news, and this report should be a reminder of the basic principles of getting the facts and putting an ethical story together, whether you’re with a magazine, a broadcaster, an online publication or at a newspaper. When reporting on social media, ensure everything is accurate. Take time to verify sources and material. If you’re quoting a report from social, especially Twitter, verify it before running with it.

Social media can be essential, but used together with other reporting tools can help make a story great. Running with the facts just because they are posted on there doesn’t mean it is automatically true, so take time to verify everything before your deadline. Not only will verification of facts make you be a better journalist for it, it will help your organization grow in trust, especially in the digital world.

Remember, it is better to be right and be correct, than being first than being incorrect, and a great story has verified fact. Verify, verify, verify.

For the record, the Society of Professional Journalists issued a statement independent of this blog post, which you can read here, and you can read wider insight from Seaman on the report, posted on the SPJ Ethics blog here.

If you’re a digital journalist, I’d love to know what you think of this report and the affect on social media and other digital tools in journalism. Feel free to drop me an email or send me a tweet. I look forward to reading your feedback.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, blogs on social media’s role in journalism for Net Worked, and serves as Community Coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also is Deputy Editor, Media Editor and a writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s unless otherwise indicated, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The future of women studying journalism

The School of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Indiana University's main campus in Bloomington, considered to be one of the most prestigious journalism schools in the US. Research shows an increase of women studying journalism compared to men. Photo - mojourcomm / Wikimedia Commons (CC)

The School of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Research shows an increase of women studying journalism compared to men.
Photo – mojourcomm / Wikimedia Commons (CC)

One of the items in modern journalism education that has been examined as of late is the rise of women studying journalism, and that despite more women studying the subject than their male counterparts, more of the jobs are going to men.

A recent blog post detailed research from Oxford University in the UK which indicated more women studied journalism compared to men in multiple countries, including the United States, yet most of the jobs were going to men.

More research had been done particularly on the angle of education in the US, and recent research from the University of Georgia, known as the Annual Survey of Journalism and Mass Communication Enrollment, indicated that approximately two-thirds of the student body pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees in the field were women.

Yet with the concerns still out there on employment ratios and gender gaps, what does the future hold for women studying journalism, and what would the educational research indicate when transitioning to employment?

In an earlier blog post, Whitney Ashton, a senior at Pepperdine University, based outside Los Angeles, said there had been some changes in the digital age.

“It’s easy to look through the gendered lens that is sometimes presented on TV or get discouraged by the ratio of male to female bylines in newspapers, but online journalism and social media are new territory,” Ashton said. “The digital age has disrupted traditional journalism in many ways, and I think it also has the potential to change gender attitudes for women looking to break into the industry.”

Indiana University's flagship campus in Bloomington, considered to be one of the most prestigious journalism programs in the US. (Photo: McAnt/Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

Indiana University’s flagship campus in Bloomington, considered to be home to one of the most prestigious journalism programs in the US. (Photo: McAnt/Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

At Indiana University‘s flagship campus in Bloomington, senior journalism student Abby Llorico says the research from UGA is not surprising, and that you could walk down most hallways at Ernie Pyle Hall and not spot a single male student.

Llorico, reached by email, says something is missing.

“My honors program started with a few guys in it, but now it’s dwindled down to only 8 girls,” Llorico said. “It’s unfortunate in a learning environment because there’s definitely a perspective we’re missing.”

For the industry, Llorico says, many people associate the digital industry with social media, and perceptions are different.

“The digital world is seen by many people as a “social media” term, and many people think of social media as more of a ‘girl-thing,'” Llorico said. “I have never heard of a guy wanting to make a career out of social media. And while of course they do use the platform, for young people I would say that it’s more common for girls to keep up with their feeds and timelines than guys.”

Yet, on the subject of equality, Llorico says, gender is the easiest hurdle.

“I really think that’s the easiest hurdle we have to face in society, and I am a woman,” Llorico said. “We’ve cleared a lot of hurdles when it comes to how people think and now it’s just about making policy that catches up. As far as religion, race, nationality, and the like, I think that journalism is one sphere in which the generally more liberal mindset would help make equality more possible than in other fields.”

Llorico, who wants to be a TV news anchor when she finishes her studies, says it is imperative to understand the world and its various perspectives.

“There’s nothing more crucial in this world than understanding it,” Llorico said. “We owe it to one another to hear each other out and listen to voices, stories, and problems that are different than ours.”

For the moment, however, concerns about a gender gap are vast and appear in many schools in the US. In an interview with the USA Today College publication, Victoria Messina, a journalism major at the University of Florida, it may lead to concerns of employment down the road.

“If I put in the same amount of effort, and went to a really great journalism school, and did all of the same work as him and he got the job or the better story than me, then that would suck.”

Alex Veeneman is a Chicago based SPJ member who is chairman of SPJ Digital and the community coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman serves as Deputy Editor, Media Editor and contributing writer to Kettle Magazine, an online publication based in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

Ask Questions, Get Answers

You know the phrase, ‘Ask and you shall receive’?  No other advice rings truer for young journalists who are itching to get out in the business.

It’s the classic professors’ ploy: “Questions? Anybody have questions?” The professor implores, as he paces the floor. More often than not, the room answers with squeaky shoe-shuffling. Students, especially prideful college students, are reluctant to admit what they don’t know.

But journalists are the curious ones of the bunch–the ones that ask questions to strangers over the phone; the ones that seek out sources, data, and numbers on the Internet.  So why are we still afraid to ask questions, when we’re practically spoon-fed opportunities to do so?

The journalism profession is hands down a learn-on-the-job kind of trade–don’t expect a morning lecture to earn you the keys to the kingdom of ledes.  There’s only so much knowledge a reporter can gain from reading a textbook before she just has to pick up the phone herself.

And as inexperienced, young journalists coming into college–feeling free, confident, and sometimes a little cocky–we need all the help we can get.

My advice for journalists-in-training is to always ask questions.  Even when you’re sitting in an Anthropology lecture on Gender and Ethnicity, challenge yourself to ask the professor–a well-learned scholar, no doubt–a question about his or her experiences pertaining to the topic at hand.  I bet you’ll walk away from the lecture feeling more engaged and more likely to remember the material for an exam (yes, journalists still need to pass exams).

But don’t just ask questions in the classroom.

Find other journalists working in the field and kindly ask for their advice.  Even better, find a journalist (or two) already doing what it is you aspire to do, and ask them how they got there. Chances are, you’ll receive some smart, succinct advice and a new ally in this competitive field.

Journalists already love talking to strangers, and what journalist wouldn’t enjoy an email or two to give his own advice, for a change?

Trust me: The professionals out there? They were college journalists once, too–surviving on coffee and late night snacks while trying to write that perfect nut graf.  Stay one step ahead, and keep asking questions. Pretty soon, you’ll have yourself some answers.

Bethany N. Bella is a multimedia journalist studying at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bnbjourno or browse her work at bethanybella.com.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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