Calling All Journalism Professors!

Jun 112014
  • ICFJ Back to the Newsroom Fellow B. DaVida Plummer urges journalism professors, "Cozy up to one of the bright millennial stars you may have underestimated...and beg them to take you to their leaders: Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr and Facebook."

The International Center for Journalists is on to something big with its Back in the Newsroom Fellowship. As one of five professors from historically black colleges selected to participate in the program, the benefit of the exposure just in the first few weeks alone has been immeasurable.

The fellowship draws educators out from behind the walls of their institutions of higher learning and pushes them into the open universe of digital content generation.

This program forces educators to rethink and retool their teaching strategies and course designs. In doing so, fellows are becoming catalysts for change in academia, armed with newly acquired skills, practical experience and renewed focus.

This is real. Professors have to be willing to constantly reinvent themselves and become proficient across all media platforms. It's crucial to successfully engage students, who are already keen media consumers, and help them to acquire and perfect the skills needed to thrive in the industry as professionals.

The first step for educators who are willing to step up is to wake up. If you are a baby boomer teaching at one of the many celebrated journalism schools and just biding time till retirement, you probably aren’t interested in reading any further.

News flash: If you want out of the game, don’t teach. Colleges and universities should not be retirement options for former media practitioners. Time spent and lessons learned working in the industry should be imparted via pedagogy and methods that are relevant, dynamic and focus on the placement potential for students eager to launch promising careers of their own.

So, at this juncture, colleagues, it means striving to become the sharpest and most prolific media industry “Jetson” you can be. If you love the craft, you may have to learn to love how the business of media has evolved. It is vital to master populating a multitude of digital channels for a tech savvy media audience. It’s all net gain. You don’t have to give up good journalism to learn to package and channel content properly for maximum reach and exposure. Just be open to teaching with a vast measure of media applications in mind.

So, listen carefully.

Compelling writing alone will not place your best students at the top of a short list for a job at a competitive media entity. Your students are not likely to hear their names called to meet with hiring executives if they can’t produce copy that is both pleasing to the eye and the ear.

Basking in nostalgia over the days in journalism school when one could specialize in writing for radio and television and skip some of those painfully challenging courses in inverted pyramid style, copy editing, headline writing, graphic design and video editing is a waste. If only we could rewind life’s tape and re-register for a fifth year of undergrad to make up for what we missed in creating text, graphics and video!

It may be too late to rewind, but it’s not too late to catch up.

Start writing right now. Start a blog, pitch a freelance story to your local newspaper’s digital desk, cozy up to one of the bright millennial stars you may have underestimated and perhaps labeled as uncommunicative because they are less likely to establish eye contact with you than one of your peers and beg them to take you to their leaders: Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr and Facebook.

Learn the language and mimic the media behavior. It’s the only way. If you’re on it, you may even strike a rewarding balance between your unquestionable journalistic skill and your newly acquired tech prowess.