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Universities as Labs for Journalism’s Future

Tonight I went to an entry-level journalism class to speak about my work at Nassau News Live, what we do, how we do it, and, most important to me, why we do it.

I've stressed several times on this blog why — No. 1 is to give journalism students a rich online reporting experience; and No. 2 is to provide a great service to the four local villages we cover.

But NNL really focuses on No. 1. And in explaining why to one of the budding journalists this evening, the answer just rolled off the tongue. The site is preparing Hofstra journalism students for 2 or 3 years down the road, for when they graduate. They should learn the traditions of journalism – sourcing, ethics, shoe-leather beat reporting etc. – but also how to shoot video and take pictures in a journalistic way that best serves the user.

Finally journalism programs are getting with it. Columbia is opening a digital newsroom. Same with UNC-Chapel Hill. And UC-Berkley is starting a content-sharing agreement with the New York Times through its Bay Area News Project. (Hofstra opened its digital newsroom, the NewsHub in the fall of 2007.)

Universities are a place for growth, and a place to try it all. These universities – and many others ought to follow – should prepare its students for the job market they will face (a digital one), and teach them lessons from the past. Each journalism program should allow students learn and experiment with embedding video, flash, live webcasting, live blogging, social media – and doing it all on deadline.

With this we will build a new crop of journalists that will have new tools to appeal, interact and inspire users. We need to learn how to make young people follow and participate in news. We need to give the underrepresented a place to voice their issues. But first we need to teach student journalists how to achieve these goals and we need to give them the tools to do it.
Tim Robertson
Managing Editor
Nassau News Live
www.nassaunewslive.com

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