A journalism graduate’s reflections on digital skills and j-school education

Let’s hear from people on the ground about skills and education needed for a journalism job today – Andrea Gillhoolley, a 2005 Penn State University graduate majoring in journalism, now a reporter for Lebanon Daily News in Lebanon, Pa., shares her story on how she learns digital skills on her own as she goes, and her ideas about how j-schools can better teach/prepare students for jobs like hers.

I had a Twitter conversation with Andrea and believe what she says to me is of use to most other journalism educators and students. Below is a compilation of Andrea’s tweets in answering two of my questions:

Me: How did you learn everything yourself?

Andrea: In early ’09, we started posting stories during the day as opposed to waiting late at night (can you believe that). From there, we started posting breaking news immediately & on our Facebook page. I scoped out probably 50 other news sites to see what they were doing. Then, we are lucky that we are guided by DigitalFirstMC b/c as of last year, we are covering events live (cont). We post to Twitter or Facebook first for breaking news usually and then update our site to bring people to it. We’re doing live chats, live coverage, all things social media, live scoreboard updates & livestreaming games. I found spundge and have 2 notebooks going that house all of the articles I found for online tools, social tips, etc. I participate in 2 weekly chats #dfmchat & #wjchat to find out new, free tools & how to handle issues. I read A LOT every week. ldnews works w/ sister papers in MediaNewsGroup/ Journal Register & DigitalFirstMCstevebuttry is excellent source.

Me: What’s ur suggestion to jschools for better preparing/teaching students for jobs like yours?

Andrea: Work out a deal with local newspapers and work with their online staff for a couple weeks & see the process. For 1 semester, focus on social media & best practices; content curation; breaking news coverage; how to edit vid. using mobile. Have them cover an event live using scribblelive or coveritlive. Don’t know if you can create a ‘news’ website specifically for your class, but have them practice writing breaking news there. You have to be fast & constantly scouring Storify twitter and facebook for updates & photos from community. You kind of intertwine your writing with content created by others. Also, we just had a meeting about mobile. Everything is about mobile. You’re basically writing for people checking their phones. So, social media, content curation, breaking news, video, live coverage, content production (infographics, charts). I can’t stress enough how important this is. This is what newspapers are working toward right now. Everything is moving fast. Examples of dissect: BostonGlobe bombing coverage; denverpost Aurora shoot; nhregister Sandy hook. One last thing: Point to drive home: Telling stories digitally is completely different from print. Treat it as such.

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About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (www.mulinblog.com/mooc), a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
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