Posts Tagged ‘education’


What’s your idea?

The author and long time public radio broadcaster Garrison Keillor has a saying which accompanies the end of his Writer’s Almanac programs on Minnesota Public Radio: “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”

We live in an age where journalism is evolving every second, and as it evolves, so does how we think about it – whether it comes to our own crafts, how we can support our newsroom and industry colleagues, or how we can improve our relationship with the public.

We enter this profession because we want to ensure our audiences are at their best. Along the way, we need to be at our best. The best way to do that is by working together, and embracing a collaborative spirit to help make the industry we love even stronger.

At its root is education – something that I am hoping to expand on as my SPJ colleagues gather in Southern California for the annual Excellence in Journalism conference, an opportunity to reflect and to look ahead as to what we can do to help enhance journalism.

But this education, I find, has more meaning when we work together. So I want to hear from you. What do you want to see from this blog in the next year? What would help you make a difference to your audience?

Another thing I wondered is what you want to see – would you like more reporting or guest essays? Is there a topic that isn’t touched on very much that you feel would help you?

I’d love to know what you think. You can tweet me @alex_veeneman or email me through my web site.

We can strengthen journalism, but we can’t do it alone. We must do it together and echo Keillor’s philosophy, because when we’re at our best, the people who matter most – your audience, will be too.

I look forward to hearing your feedback.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

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.

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.

What Jacques Pepin can teach journalists

The work of chef, author and broadcaster Jacques Pepin provides lessons for journalists. (Photo: Edsel Little/Wikimedia Commons)

The work of chef, author and broadcaster Jacques Pepin provides worthwhile lessons for journalists. (Photo: Edsel Little/Wikimedia Commons)

Jacques Pepin and I, through our professions, are different. Pepin is the successful chef, author and broadcaster, known to millions as the host of multiple cooking programs airing on public television. I am a journalist who writes primarily about journalism and digital culture.

Despite our pursuits of different lines of work, there are two things that we have in common — our commitment to quality and our ability to tell stories.

For Pepin, he tells these stories through his recipes, curating the experience of enjoying food with family and friends. For me, it is through the stories and essays I write, not just for SPJ, but for the British publication Kettle Magazine, for whom I have served as an editor and contributor for over 4 years.

Yet, Pepin’s work and philosophy can provide lessons for journalists. In a recent broadcast of the PBS Newshour, Pepin did a segment reflecting on the culture of the recipe, and that at the core of a recipe is the idea that comes from it.

“A recipe is a teaching tool, a guide, a point of departure,” Pepin said. “You have to follow it exactly the first time you make the dish. But after you make it again and again, you will change it, you will massage it to fit your own taste, your own sense of aesthetic.”

The same rule applies, albeit indirectly, to journalism. The ethics and background rules apply and must be abided by the first time you sit down and write a story. You have the information that comes from 6 basic elements — who, what, when, where, why and how. But as the mediums evolve in the digital age, there are more ways for stories to be told, whether through conventional platforms like a newspaper, TV or radio, or through the web and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

What I have come to appreciate about Pepin’s work is the stories that he tells with the experience of food. Every dish, whether he cooks it himself or with the help of his daughter Claudine, granddaughter Shorey or best friend Jean-Claude, tells a story, and though the basic recipe elements either remain the same or differentiate depending upon taste, there is a different story that can be told.

Good journalism and good storytelling has the power to make a difference in the world. It not only informs and engages, but also has the ability to inspire. It is the type of storytelling that I hope to do as I continue my career.

Pepin is curating a unique experience with every dish he makes, which makes his programs on public television (and indeed other public media programs) so worthwhile. Pepin also gives a reminder to all of us about the importance of a good story, and how much benefit it can have.

Happy cooking, and happy storytelling.

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.

Some forthcoming changes to SPJ Digital

spjdigitalSPJ Digital has been making significant progress since the new officer terms began on Feb. 1. We have made more resources available and expanded work on our current resources, as well as grown in members. But while we celebrate our achievements, we also look ahead, especially towards the Excellence in Journalism conference in Orlando in September.

On March 9, I notified SPJ President Dana Neuts, as well as my colleagues on the executive, of my intentions to resign as chairman of SPJ Digital. With my resignation, I introduced a resolution that would change how the role of the Chair worked, creating two Co-Chair positions, one overseeing overall programming and strategy, the other overseeing our social media efforts and interactive elements of events and programming.

I recommended Taylor Mirferendeski, Head of Programming, and Brandi Broxson, our Google+ and LinkedIn Coordinator, to take these positions upon approval. This was done to ensure there would be a smooth transition, and the major work of SPJ Digital would in no way be disrupted. That resolution was approved by the executive on March 13, and since that time the new executive has been preparing to complete the transition.

The new executive, composed of Mirferendeski, Broxson, Facebook Coordinator Michelle Sandlin, Twitter Coordinator Beth O’Malley and Google+ and LinkedIn coordinator Bethany Bella, began work this week. Soon, Brandi and Taylor will be utilizing this and other platforms to outline what they have in store for SPJ Digital from now through EIJ.

I thank President Neuts, her colleagues on the SPJ Board, as well as SPJ staff at the Indianapolis headquarters for their support during my time as chair. I also thank the executive who takes over. I believe they are some of the best and brightest members of the SPJ, and I know SPJ Digital is in good hands. I also want to thank the members of SPJ Digital, as well as you, the Net Worked reader, for supporting SPJ Digital during my time as chairman.

I may be resigning as Chair, but I am not completely exiting the SPJ. I am to remain Community Coordinator, assisting President Neuts in overseeing SPJ Digital and our network of communities. I will also continue to blog on the pages of Net Worked, focusing particularly on social media’s role in journalism.

With these roles, I hope to continue SPJ Digital’s mission of education, as well as help the SPJ preserve and protect journalism for this generation and the next. I believe that education can help build a better journalism community, and I am excited at the ability to continue to do so, to help digital journalism thrive, and to make journalism better for all.

I am excited at what is to come, and I know the future looks bright for SPJ Digital, and indeed SPJ as a whole. I hope you will join me as we continue our crucial mission.

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 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.

Why public broadcasting is important in the digital age

A little over 45 years ago, Fred Rogers appeared before the Subcommittee on Communications of the United States Senate. At the time of his testimony, a grant for $20 million for the newly funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting, established in 1967, was in jeopardy, as President Richard Nixon wanted to cut that funding in half.

At the heart of Rogers’ testimony was education, and the role television, as it came to prominence during the course of the late 20th century, can have in the role of one’s development. His testimony showcased how much of a role television can have in education, and indeed as the years progressed, how other mediums, including the internet, have in informing and educating.

As journalists, education is at the core of what we do, whether we’re informing someone of a political event or a major conflict, or of a new social media tool or a new film an actor or actress is starring in. But beyond that, the mediums of the web, television, radio and print can be used to deliver a comprehensive education, an ability to inspire someone, an ability to make a difference.

In this age of advanced technology, questions have been asked about the ongoing role of today’s public broadcaster(s), and what they can do, as many flock to the web and social media for instantaneous information and entertainment. Although the mediums themselves are evolving, opportunities emerge for education, and the ability to inspire, educate and enlighten, whether its a child preparing for school, or for the adult that wants to continue learning.

Public television and public radio are some of those tools that can educate and inspire, and as they expand onto the internet, and on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, they have shown that no matter what the medium, we can still ensure that this society is a well educated and well informed society.

In this digital age, we as journalists can educate, inform and enlighten in more ways than ever imagined, and not only preserve this education for this generation, but also save it for the next.

Don’t write public broadcasting off. Support it and nurture it, and so we can help our colleagues in public broadcasting stations across the country continue the work that Fred Rogers made clear when he appeared before the Senate, no matter the medium.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is chairman and blogger at large of SPJ Digital, and community coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also serves as Deputy Editor, Media 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 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.

A few words on David Carr

The journalism industry is going through a state of flux. As it goes through its state of flux, one man came forward with sharp insight and analysis that made the industry stop, listen, and take notice, whether you are beginning to enter the industry (like I am) or you are a veteran of the industry.

That man was the New York Times media columnist David Carr. Carr died Thursday at Roosevelt Hospital in New York.

I never met Carr in person, but I was an avid reader of Carr’s content, from my days as a student in university to even now. Carr’s writing was insightful, his knowledge of the industry was vast. Through his columns and pieces, and indeed his talks and lectures, he educated readers, scholars, students, executives and others about the industry and where it was going. I was always fascinated reading Carr’s content and knowing what he thought, from social media’s intersection in journalism to the traditional issues that face media outlets, from the decline in advertising to the issues of this week with NBC News anchor Brian Williams.

Carr was not just a writer. He was an educator, a one of a kind person in this industry, whose thoughts on the evolution of media are part of his legacy. Though he is no longer here, and there won’t be anyone like him again, his educational wit and insight on this industry will remain, something important for all people who love and respect journalism. Education from him can help this industry move forward.

My thoughts are with his family, friends and his colleagues at the Times.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is chairman and blogger at large of SPJ Digital, and community coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also serves as Deputy Editor, Media 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 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.

Dear journalism student: Don’t worry, be happy

The School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, one of many schools that will welcome back students in the coming weeks. Photo - mojourcomm / Wikimedia Commons (CC)

The School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, one of many schools that will welcome back students in the coming weeks.
Photo – mojourcomm / Wikimedia Commons (CC)

It is an important question – a question where the opinion you get will be different every time it is asked, a question that has been asked a lot recently. But most of all, it is a question that may not be easy to answer at first, but allows a great debate and eye as to where this industry will go.

Where is journalism going?

It is a debate worth having, in an age where solutions to this particular question are being played out every day to address current topics, from the future of newspapers in the face of new directions in advertising, the future of news on television and radio, to the rise of the web and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter that have created new thinking on not just the language of journalism, but also the consumption of journalism, and the expectations the people we serve have of us in this tech savvy age.

Today, Margaret Sullivan, the public editor of The New York Times, wrote a post on her blog on the subject, based on her observations of that paper and that of her previous employer, The Buffalo News in New York state. Sullivan refers to an article by Phil Fairbanks of the News, in which the mayor had been seen as perhaps running a play to pay scheme with regard to real estate developers and their politics. Fairbanks had been looking into this, and kept asking the questions readers wanted to know about those in city government.

It is a similarity struck at the Times, where questions are asked of leaders in Washington and around the world, to try to give the readers the full story, and in an age of cutbacks on reporters, news organizations, and indeed observers of the industry like Sullivan, have been inquiring what this means for the state of reporting, and moreover, how the decline in reporting can be circumvented for the digital age, in order for it to be guaranteed to thrive.

Her post comes as the Tribune Company spins off its newspapers, including its flagship papers in Chicago and Los Angeles, and news that newsroom staff has declined approximately 30 percent since 2003, according to data from the American Society of News Editors cited by Sullivan.

The fiscal circumstances that have unfolded, not just within the past week but within the last few years, led to some pessimism on the outlook of the industry, from those in it, to those students completing degrees in the many colleges and universities across the country who are studying it (myself included).

As I prepared to finish my degree a few months ago, I asked myself questions about where journalism lies in the new digital culture of ours, and if indeed I would be able to land feet first in the industry without stumbling over. It was a worry I had, a worry, I will admit, I still have somewhat. But I realized I needn’t fear.

To paraphrase the quote from Mark Twain: “The reports of journalism’s death have been greatly exaggerated.”

In the next few weeks, schools will be back in session, and many a journalism student who will look to finish their degree and make a mark on the industry, will likely consider their future, and what it will be like, wondering, perhaps with worry, if a job can be secured at the end of the fourth year.

Journalism, in this new age of technology, has been presented with many opportunities, in the face of many risks. Journalism students will need to do more to stand out and make themselves known, instead of sitting still and thinking about that party Saturday night, from work on other web sites to networking, including on Twitter and LinkedIn.

However, and as Sullivan wrote in her post, there will always be journalism and a need for journalists, whatever the means, whether its behind a camera, or behind the computer.

“What matters is the journalism, not the medium,” Sullivan said. “It’s happening before our eyes, and while there’s clearly reason to worry, there’s reason to hope, too.”

It is my hope that those students who head back to school will remember this and remain confident of their efforts and their potential, but also to keep this in mind – the more time you put in, the better off you’ll be.

We will always need journalists. It may not be in the medium or environment you expect to be in, but know that you’ll always be needed, and that’s a promise. Don’t worry, be happy.

Alex Veeneman is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists based in Chicago. Veeneman also serves as Special Projects Editor and writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. The views in this post are his own. You can tweet him @alex_veeneman or email spjdigital@gmail.com.

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