Saturday, March 31, 2007

Symposium Day 2

The first panel on Saturday offered an interesting look at storytelling techniques, using video and interactive methods. Panelists were Jorge Sanhueza- Lyon of the Statesman (friend of the class), Brian Storm of MediaStorm (an independent production company), and Andrew Devigal of NY Times. The each showed some interesting multimedia projects that I will show in class including items from Devigal's bookmarks ( . The Casualities of War analysis section is a good example of the usage of data to drive an infographic. And there were some fascinating projects produced by Storm for National Geographics including one about the poaching of elephants in Africa.

Here's the crazy part...I asked the panel a question about suggestions for students who want to go into the field of creating multimedia journalism packages, types of skills they would need to hire. Each one emphasized basic storytelling, journalism, ethics, and critical thinking. This I all agree with. But, they de-emphasized the role of technical skills. Then in the next breath, Devigal mentioned that the last two they had hired at NY Times were
Flash programmers. Actions don't seem to mesh with what they said. While I agree that the journalism skills are a given and critical thinking is part of what every college student should be learning, I think that communication students with good technical skills provide a strong and valuable skill set that will be sought after by media companies. I certainly agree that students must have the ability to learn, but they also need confidence with technology and a passion for using it. I teach my students to take initiative after the class and to develop skills in a variety of technologies, with the understanding that they will be expected to keep up in this constantly changing field. I do not think that hiring computer science majors into media companies provides the proper perspective in telling engaging stories.

Guy Berger's keynote on Saturday was an eye-opening look at international journalism, first covering the situation in South Africa, where he is a journalism professor. He showed images of the conditions of technology in some schools of communication (particularly one in Nigeria), antiquated technology that had been donated, lack of electricity, Internet connection. His talk was a good introduction to the issues discussed in the first research panel, dealing with international issues regarding strategic positioning of new media.

1 comment:

Guy Berger said...

Probably the panellists just wanted to emphasise that tech skills without journalism aren't what they are looking for. Hence, stressing the primacy of journalism. But it is the case, as you say, that in their business, journalism skills without any tech knowledge is probably as unhelpful as tech-without-journ.

On the international, just to clarify, I showed a j-school in Nigeria (though I come from South Africa). There, without computers, electricity, or even proper water supply, they train young people to write using pen and paper. The result: graduates who go into the Nigerian press which is pretty vibrant and which also has a web presence - against huge odds. Shows, I guess, that teaching journalism is primary to high-tech skilling ....