Blogs and journalism education

It is interesting that in my searches I have found lots of stuff about blogs and higher education, lots of stuff about bloggs and writing courses, lots of stuff about blogs and journalism but almost nothing about blogs in journalism education. This is not surprising because blogging is still suspect in journalism although this is changing rapidly.

One journalism course blogg that I did find from Seaton Hill University has an interesting discussion about the old chesnut: “Is blogging Journalism?”

When bloggs take the lead in showing how 60 Minutes was duped then this appears to be a silly question. The recent debate over the authenticity of the documents used by Dan Rather, in his story about President Bush’s service in the National Guard, has been a blogger led story. Dan Gilmour sums up the sequence of events that led to bloggers exposing one of America’s most senior reporters. He comments:

Yet I’m also convinced that the emergent online community known as the “blogosphere” – the world of Weblogs, or blogs – has played an essential role in this bizarre sequence of events. The major shift, however, is one of perception, less in what happened than its high visibility and velocity.

Jay Rosen at Press Think is one of the best bloggers about journalism on the web and he has posted one of his typically masterful essay/posts about the Rather incident. He points out it is about much more than the triumph of the blogs:

We’re in the theatre of reputation, and Rather is himself the major character, although it was supposed to be not Dan Rather under trial but fellow Texan George W. Bush. Big Journalism is involved. Kid Internet. Military Service. Democratic Activists. The Liberal Media. The Bush Clan. Texas Power Circles. The DNC? To say “this is theatre” is not to diminish the story, but to suggest why it’s grown so big.

Rosen and Dan Gilmour have a great conversation about blogging, the web and journalism here . Gilmour says:

The first thing we’d need to do is listen, pay attention to what is being said. To really get out of the lecture mode that we’ve been in and to recognize that something new is going on that will benefit not just our journalism — which of course we want to do — but benefit the people who are reading or listening to or viewing our journalism. Those are the people who we say we want to serve. So, the conversation part of it — the listening part, the responding part — is not just for journalists. It’s for all of us, it’s for everybody. And it comes back to what I’ve made a kind of a cliché in my own world, which is that my readers know more than I do.

It seems that resistance to blogging/web-based initiatives in both journalism and in education may result from this inability of its practitioners to “get out of the lecture mode”.

While educators like to make a distinction between different approaches to learning, (deep/surface; holistic/atomistic; connected/isolated) journalism academics such as James Carey have made similar distinctions about journalism. Carey famously drew a distinction between the transmission model and the ritual model of communication. One is about information transfer and the other is about fellowship and meaning making. Carey argues that the transmission model is dominant in “objectivity” obsessed modern journalism. This leads to a focus on the “what” but not the “why”.

Bloggs and web-based communication/collaboration destabilize these models.

One thought on “Blogs and journalism education

  1. As I was reading your blog Marcus, it seems to me that you are foregrounding a clear distinction between transmissive, instructive approaches (to learning, to journalism) and interactions that are conversational.

    I guess the question I would want to ask is what would conversational learning look like in journalism education, and in particular as this learning operates in a blog e-learning environment?

    Not sure that I understand the dimensions of ‘distributed conversation’ or ‘cumulative conversation’ – in particular as it relates to blogging. It also left me thinking about what the benefits of these kinds of conversations were and how that might be known.

    And a bit of an aside: Theodore Zeldin (1998) describes conversation in this way …

    ‘Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet, they don’t just exchange facts: they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, engage in new trains of thought. Conversation doesn’t just reshuffle the cards: it creates new cards. That’s the part that interests me. That’s where I find the excitement. It’s like a spark that two minds create. And what I really care about is what new conversational banquets one can create from those sparks’ (p.14)

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