J-students should finish basic journalism courses before taking digital/multimedia journalism

One cannot become a good digital journalist without solid training in traditional journalism. Before taking a digital journalism class, students (at least) should have taken courses in news writing/reporting and basic video production.

In the convergent journalism class I taught last year, I had students who are not journalism majors, or j-students who had not yet taken some basic journalism courses. I found myself having to work with some students explaining basic video production techniques, or doing a crash course on AP style or news writing in general.

So my thought is that in terms of curriculum design, students should be required to finish basic journalism courses before taking a digital journalism course. The quantity and contents of “basic” journalism courses may vary from program to program, but the following skills would be essential for an effective learning experience out of a digital journalism class:

  • News writing: we should have the same expectations of the text components in a digital journalism project – free of grammatical errors, follow AP style, well-written overall, etc.
  • Web writing: writing for the web is different from writing for print; students should be able to adopt some web-writing techniques to enhance their writing in a web-based digital project.
  • Photography: taking “good” photo is a basic and routine task for digital journalists; the photos can be used as stills, or be edited in a photo slideshow or a video.
  • Video production: video is an increasingly “big deal” in digital journalism.
  • News judgment: digital journalism still requires the ability to quickly identify topics/subjects/issues that will interest the audience; news judgment is especially important for data journalism – find the story behind raw numbers and data.

Digital journalism requires more than digital tools and gadgets. To produce a photo slideshow on your smartphone, you need to know what photos to shoot and how to shoot. To make a video using your smartphone or mobile device, you need to know the basics of video production and some broadcast journalism. To use social media tools, such as Storify, in telling a story, some knowledge in news writing and web writing helps a lot.

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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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