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Why College Journalism Programs Should Teach Technology

Charles Rector's Weblog; Jul. 8, 2011; By Charles Rector
Type: Commentary

Back when I was an undergraduate with a journalism minor (1983-1987) and then later when I was a graduate student staff member on the UALR Forum (1998-1999), it always struck me that the journalism programs did not teach technology.  None of the journalism professors that I knew even so much as owned a personal computer, much less had one in their office.  The basic attitude of these journalism professors was that technology was irrelevant to the teaching of journalism.

The end result of all this was that the journalism majors who I knew graduated from college computer illiterate unless they had a computer of their own.  When the Internet came, these journalists were slow to realize its importance.  They also proved incompetent in their coverage of the Internet and its revolutionizing effect upon civilization.  

What about the databases that government at the state and local levels  have been putting online? Why  not teach the technology of how to utilize that information and use information technology tools to find the stories that are buried inside these databases? The likes of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social networking sites have the potential to become useful for breaking news. These websites can also be used to create profiles of the folks involved in the news events.

Here is further food for thought.  Twitter requires making posts of 140 characters or less.  What this does is to focus  on expressing maximum information and thought in the least amount of wordage.  If nothing else, teaching the use of Twitter in class should come in handy in teaching how to write articles that maximize the information presented to the reader while minimizing the amount of wordage used.

Teaching technology, and how to maximize its potential, should be a fundamental part of teaching journalism.  The fact that it is not being taught only works to the detriment of both journalism and journalism education.

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