Journalism schools are creating new programs and courses that incorporate digital skills; such programs/courses come with a large variety of names. “Digital journalism” is the best name based on a three-part evaluation: popular, self-explanatory and precise.
As I wrote in a blog post surveying titles of new journalism courses, some popular names, among others, are “online journalism,” “multimedia journalism,” “digital journalism,” “multiplatform journalism,” and “convergence journalism.”
In this post, I want to use Google Trends reports and my own observations to argue that in comparison with other names, “digital journalism” is the name that best meets all three criteria.
A program/course name needs to be popular, self-explanatory and precise
When choosing name or title for a new program or new course, J-school administrators and/or instructors need to ask a few questions:
- Is this a popular name? Are there more people searching for this name than other names?
- Is this a self-explanatory name? Do we need to explain or “educate” potential students and their parents on what this program/course teaches?
- Is this a precise name, that it best represents course contents and industry practices?
Based on these criteria, we can see that some names, such as “online journalism,” are popular and self-explanatory, but are not precise; some names, such as “multiplatform journalism,” are precise, but not popular, not self-explanatory.
“Online Journalism” is popular and self-explanatory, but not precise
Google Trends is a tool that “reflects what keywords people are searching for on a daily basis.” Let’s look at the volume of searches for the five above-mentioned names from 2004 to present:
Looking at this graph, one may jump to a conclusion to go with “online journalism,” because it is way more popular than other names, and it is also self-explanatory. However, I say no, for two reasons:
- Popularity of “online journalism” has been trending down. Although “online journalism” still leads all other names in terms of search volumes, it is also obvious that this term is not, and will not be, as “hot” as it used to be.
- “Online journalism” is not precise enough to account for what is happening in the journalism profession. “Online journalism” is closely associated with desktop web; so if a reporter shoots pictures on a smartphone, edits them into a slideshow on the phone, and shares the slideshow to mobile social media networks such as Instagram, is this “online journalism”?
“Digital journalism” best meets the three evaluation criteria
If we remove “online journalism” from the picture, then the choice is easier to make among the remaining four names – “digital journalism” is more popular than the other three names, and it is also self-explanatory and precise.
When we study this four-name graph, a quick decision may be to drop “multiplatform journalism” – its search volume is negligible in comparison with searches for other names. Although, for media professionals, “multiplatform journalism” is a very precise term, but most average people don’t have much clue what it means. So, why would a journalism program want to choose a name that few people search for on the web, a name many people don’t understand?
In a similar vein, I compiled a rubric to show that “digital journalism” fares better than the other names: