Columbia Scholastic Press Association
Phone: (212) 854-9400
CSPA is affiliated with the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in the City of New York.
New Media for student journalists
Learning the future of the industry as students
By Katherine Reedy
“New media” has become the most celebrated and hated term in journalism. The term invokes both fear and excitement in anyone considering the media as a professional field.
Analysts have blamed the rise of multi-media and blogs – news and personal websites that are often more opinion-based than traditional papers – for the noticeable drop in readership and revenue of newspapers across the United States.
As papers lose their lifeblood – advertising – to the internet, they are increasingly unable to pay for operating costs. Editor and Publisher magazine reports that between 1940 and 2000, more than 400 daily newspapers folded nationwide, with a more noticeable decline in the internet age.
The challenges of new media affect local papers and national brand papers alike. The New York Times, for instance, recently scaled back the literal width of its paper from 14 to 12 inches and introduced a range of website content- including videos articles, slideshows, and cross-marketing- to appeal to readers.
Many high school journalism teachers say their students view new media as the inevitable fate of journalism, and they hope to train them to be able to deal with shifting demands in the field.
“That's the future of the media,” said Jim Lang, who teaches and oversees a school newspaper in Floyds Knobs, Indiana.
Lang said he has broadened his teaching methods to uphold his philosophy that “students have to be able to work cross-platform, in writing and photography, radio and TV. Everything is coming together. There are no more specialists.”
Martha Singleton, who has taught high school journalism in San Antonio, Texas for 37 years, said she’s tried her best to embrace new changes in media, which, she claims, affect the way her students learn and communicate in addition to changing the role of technology.
“My husband loves to point out that when I started it was closer to the way Gutenberg printed,” Singleton said, laughing. She explained that she has gone from using rub-on lettering for headlines and teaching her students how to develop film to snapping on the computer and selecting which digital photos they’ll use.
Singleton said she looks for the positive aspects of the changes that technology has had on her students’ learning capabilities and skills.
“Overall my students are not as adept with language because they don’t read as much,” she said. “But they’re very creative. They’re independent thinkers.”
Other instructors, however, see the rise of internet media as taking away from the quality of reporting that they considered the calling-card of regional newspapers.
“It just amazes me sometimes. A lot of families don’t get daily newspapers anymore,” said Barbara Thill, who teaches high school journalism classes in Lincolnshire, Illinois. “So many kids are just clueless about current events,” she added.
Jim McGonnell, of Findlay, Ohio, has taught journalism classes for 31 years and has recently added broadcast journalism to his curriculum after receiving substantial grants. Nowadays, he said, he has to focus much more on design and visuals rather than content.
“It doesn’t matter how good your story is, people don’t want to read long stories,” he said, adding, “It’s kind of sad.”
Nevertheless, many groups are taking advantage of the increased potential for communication. The “My High School Journalism” project (www.highschooljournalism.org), includes an online system in which students upload their newspapers onto the common site in order to facilitate the exchange of information.
Yet some teachers say that while they’d like to participate in the new media “revolution,” there are obstacles that stand in their way.
“It’s hard unless you have it planned out before,” said Noreen Connolly, a Newark, New Jersey journalism teacher who said she’s trying to inspire her students to branch out from just a paper but has found it challenging to teach new tech-related skills. Nevertheless, “A lot of things are percolating,” she said, citing radio, television, and website development. Recently, for instance, her students have tried podcasting, which entails broadcasting reports onto iPods or computer music software.
Other teachers say that funding for print journalism has decreased due to the rise of other media.
“There’s no funding for the paper, but [the school] has all of this tech money,” said Martha Singleton, who added that her school district has given her money for television production and computer software but that it has not offered to meet the rising costs of printing a paper. “That’s the reality of it, though,” she added.
Read more about new media:
- http://newmedia.iupui.edu/ - Indiana University institute dedicated to the study of new electronic media.
- http://www.newmedia.org/ - Columbia University-affiliated electronic media research group.
- http://www.nmc.org/ - A non-profit group that focuses on promoting education about new media.
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CSPA is an international student press association, founded in 1925, whose goal is to unite student journalists and faculty advisers at schools and colleges through educational conferences, idea exchanges, textbooks, critiques and award programs.