Digital first if we really have to …

Posted on October 20th, 2016 by Bernie Russell

Dave Winer’s latest post, Online journalism remains unexplored, gets this right, I think.

We still tend to see the internet either as a place/space/platform where we can carry on doing whatever it is we’re doing, but just get it out there quicker and cheaper.

Money quote:

… for the most [journalists] have gone to the Internet with a feeling of necessity not wonder.

That said, he’s hard on journalists, whom he accuses almost of setting up roadblocks and checkpoints between the reader and the source.

Is that all we do – just get in the way? Does our disintermediation (his word) add no value to the reader at all?

You learn something new every day

Posted on December 10th, 2015 by Bernie Russell

There are no learning styles – or, at least, “no credible evidence that learning styles exist,” says Daniel Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, in this post on Quartz.

However, as the post points out, most academics think there are and there is.

That’s worth thinking about.



Away day thoughts: digital skills

Posted on June 22nd, 2015 by Bernie Russell

When we look at core digital skills, we tend to focus on the production modules, and on particular tools and technologies. Our procurement process, for example, is nearly all devoted to our production work.

Digital skills aren’t all to do with production, though. Our digital first approach should apply to our theory and context modules as well. We should look right  across our programs at the basics of how students use their computers, how they do their research, even how they use the internet. It wouldn’t do us any harm to look at our own practices while we’re at it.

Keyboard shortcuts
This is the obvious place to start—entry-level, literally digital first. Keyboard shortcuts are a much more efficient way to work within an application, or to work at the level of the operating system. I’d suggest we deliver a list of basic shortcuts for Windows and the Mac OS to level one students.

Too obvious? I’m not sure.

Ctrl-F is a case in point. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen students scrolling laboriously through a page of text looking for a particular phrase, rather than just hit Ctrl-F.

A quick, editable list wouldn’t hurt, and could help.

D1st toolkit
We have a session in the level three online module about assembling a digital toolkit. That’s too late. By then, students are using their default option for project management and sharing resources: Facebook, which isn’t really much use for either of those things.

They’re using pen drives for storing and moving files, and they have different files on different machines. And very few use browser extensions to save, share or clip pages.

Most use web mail, but a lot of them don’t bounce their university mail through.

Project management
There are lots of tools out there, but maybe not that many free ones. It’s possible to use WordPress, and I’m sure there are project management functions in our production and editorial apps. Google+ is fine (better than Facebook), and I’ve had teams stitch together a suite of tools (mostly around Skype).

One student introduced the team to an app called Trello, which is really useful (and free). And, of course, it may be that colleagues have their own approach to this. If so, we should be sharing these approaches so that (d1st) project management becomes part of all our modules.

Browser extensions
The students must put together a suite of browser extensions to curate and share web content. It doesn’t much matter what they are as long as they do the job.

I’d suggest as an absolute minimum that they should use a social bookmarking site to save and share material they find on the web. (I use diigo, but there are lots of others out there.) These are powerful research tools that allow users to tag and share content with colleagues or team members.

They might also want to look at extensions that will let them

  • share content over social media;
  • add things to their Amazon wish list;
  • capture screenshots of all or part of a web page
  • email web pages with one click (though this is also a core browser function anyway).

And they should be using different browsers so that they can see how they render web pages differently.

Cloud servers
All the students should be using some kind of cloud-based hosting service to store and share files. Again, it doesn’t matter which one – Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive (which is probably the best supported – you can run it on an Xbox). But they (and we …) have to get them used to storing and sharing content remotely. This would be useful for team projects and for research, especially dissertations.

(What about Blackboard? I’d say use it for official material, but that’s all.)

Back to basic
Of course, this is all very basic, and perhaps many of us and many of our students are already using these tools or similar. But if so, we should still articulate this and make it part of our work so that we can build a genuinely digital culture.

And we also should remember that it’s the end result that matters. We should be getting the students to try things, to experiment. Whatever will get the job done will do. The last thing we want is a shopping list of specific programs or tools. There’s already far too much of that approach in journalism and in the academy.

Of which more later …



Away day thoughts

Posted on June 19th, 2015 by Bernie Russell

One of the things we’ll be looking at on our away day (June 25) is breaking up the current structure for our production modules, which is too tightly demarcated, and no longer reflects industry practice (if it ever did). Read the rest of this entry »

Beyond the printed page

Posted on May 25th, 2015 by Bernie Russell

There’s a lot to think about in this upbeat report from mediatel newsline from the annual PPA conference on Thursday (21 May) – with the headline theme being that “magazine brands will continue to move far beyond the printed page”.

  • Condé Nast International president Nicholas Coleridge told the conference that the company is still launching magazines around the world, but it’s taking on staff with a much wider skillset: it’s hired one hundred people to work in Camden on a new e-commerce business, and is is also investing in an “enormous” new video team.
  • Hearst Magazines UK CEO Anna Jones warned of the effects of ‘digital disruption: “It’s like white water rafting and you have to be prepared to pivot and change not on a quarterly basis – but a week-by-week basis.”
  • Time Inc UK’s CEO, Marcus Rich said “digital disruption was ruthless to the businesses that could not adapt to change.”

And to j-schools?

The mask of journalistic aggression

Posted on April 23rd, 2015 by Bernie Russell

I happened upon this quote from Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker while doing some research on a social media project. (Yes, again with the serendipity.) Read the rest of this entry »

Hi, Robot

Posted on March 5th, 2015 by Bernie Russell

Have a quick read of this AP story about Apple, dated January 27, 2015: Read the rest of this entry »

The future of print … insofar as it has one

Posted on February 23rd, 2015 by Bernie Russell

I was doing some unrelated research and came across this quote in a piece by Clay Shirky (19/09/2014).
Check the date. It was right then; it’s unlikely to be wrong now.

Try to imagine a world where the future of print is unclear: Maybe 25 year olds will start demanding news from yesterday, delivered in an unshareable format once a day. Perhaps advertisers will decide “Click to buy” is for wimps. Mobile phones: could be a fad. After all, anything could happen with print. Hard to tell, really.

So the question is: are we facing the future of print in our teaching?


Like a Rolling Steyn

Posted on April 17th, 2014 by Bernie Russell

If you don’t know Mark Steyn’s work (and why would you?), this is a great introduction.

It’s an excoriating attack on US media reaction to the Boston bombing.

Across-the-pond life
It resonates loudly on this side of the pond as well – because, let’s face it, he could be talking about the Guardian, Channel 4, the BBC, etc., etc., etc. …

Glassed up

Posted on March 28th, 2014 by Bernie Russell

The University of Southern California is starting a course where students will learn to tell stories using augmented reality and Google Glass.

Journalists as techno trailblazers?
My first job-related thought: interesting; and course leader Robert Hernandez makes a good point when he says journalists have never been technology trailblazers (which is putting it mildly), but that “the industry has a chance for a head start with Glass”.

I spy with another little eye
My first non-job-related thought: Yay! more surveillance; just what I’ve always wanted.

The UK is already the most spied-on nation on the planet, with one surveillance camera for every eleven people (at least—this piece is dated 2013).

Yes, I know there’s  difference between being spied on by the state and being spied on by journalists.

But I’d just as soon not be spied on by anyone, to tell the truth.

Spies ‘R’ already us
There’s nothing new about journalists using surveillance technology, as we found out during the Leveson inquiry.

But do tools like Google Glass take it to a new level?

Should we be so keen to add these new surveillance tools—cheap and getting cheaper; more pervasive; and more suited to fishing trips, rather than targeted news-gathering—to our toolkit?

Droning on
Journalism schools in the US are already running courses on using new-gathering drones to find stories.

(Though not over Deer Trail, Colorado, where residents last year wanted to issue licences to shoot down drones flying over their air space;  the plan has been postponed while a spoilsport court decides whether it’s legal.)

And there’s a strong argument that as more sectors use technology like this, it makes no sense for journalism to be left behind.

All in all, I’d say this is clearly an issue that should go to our ethics classes before it reaches our production workshops.

My own view:

  • Google Glass: don’t make a spectacle of yourself; or anyone else.
  • Drones: I’m with the good people of Deer Trail, Colorado: if it flies, it dies.