From time to time we have work experience students come into the office proclaiming their desire to be journalists. I have to admit that my heart slightly sinks and a desire to 'talk them out of it' kicks in. But perhaps there is hope, yet...
by GUEST EDITOR Carolyne Mitchell
Those who know me both online and in real life will have heard me bemoaning the fact that the skills taught in computing classes in schools around the country are failing to plug the skills gap in this country and failing to engage our kids.
My 12-year-old daughter spent a year learning how to use a spreadsheet and use Word while what she wanted to know was how Muzy works and how she could bring the short stories she writes and illustrates to life online.
As parents we can help as much as we can - I'm trying to pass on my skills, for what they're worth, and we have plans to invest in a Raspberry Pi to see how she copes with that.
What I hadn't thought about was what happens after school when, at best, pupils leave with basic coding skills, a knowledge of how social tools work and lots of enthusiasm. What happens when they move on to university to do an arts or humanities degree and they're in a completely different stream to the geeks over in the maths and computing department?
Imagine my delight then when I came across a blog by Amy Schmitz Weiss from Nieman Lab describing her vision for the future of journalism and mass communication further education programs. You can read her full blog post but in a nutshell she suggests that journalism courses should offer classes in web development, web design, statistics, data visualisation and coding, all tailored for communicators. I couldn't agree more and thank goodness for institutes such as Nieman Lab.
I was a journalist for 14 years and was glad to leave when I did, making the leap to the perceived Dark Side of PR back in 2003. I wasn't in post long when I realised that I was surrounded by journalists, all hired for their contact books, writing skills and pro-active leanings. Pretty soon public sector comms teams were blazing a trail with social media and leaving the hacks behind.
I'm not sure that, other than The Guardian, any newsroom in the UK has caught up with us yet but there is a lot of activity in the US and there are things we, as public sector comms teams could learn from them.
There's content curation during emergencies such as severe weather or civil unrest, there's data visualisation instead of a press release, verifying social media content and tools developed for journalists but useful for anyone creating content.
The main players in journalism research are Nieman Lab, the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, the European Journalism Centre, Emergency Journalism and Poynter. I follow them all on Twitter and have alerts set up so I don't miss anything but here are my top six recommendations from their world:
- How to turn everyone in your newsroom into a graphics editor - A guide to using the data visualising tool, Chartbuilder
- A look inside the BBC's verification hub - how the BBC decides whether user-generated content is genuine or fake
- 10 disruptive news apps all news editors should know about
- Spunge - Evernote is great but Spundge takes it up another level. Collect research, craft your article, collaborate if you want to then then publish across platforms
- SocialBro - a tool for community management. Find out the best time to tweet to your community, identify influencers and find out what the hot topics are
- The Data Journalism Handbook - a free ebook to help journalists use data to improve the news but equally relevant to comms offices everywhere
Carolyne Mitchell is Information Officer at South Lanarkshire Council
Image via Flickr Creative Commons