A class of CU journalism seniors, and only one was blogging?

cu logoI had an opportunity this morning to speak to a class of graduating seniors at the University of Colorado, Boulder, specifically the rather dryly named “JOUR 4321: Media Institutions & Economics”.
My topics: Are bloggers a meaningful part of the journalism landscape and how do bloggers make money blogging? I came prepared to discuss both topics, based on advance input and what I think are topics that should be important to students about to be pushed out into the bleak, unforgiving world of modern journalism.
I didn’t expect a particularly warm welcome from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, though, because as I have learned from a number of students and community members, many people in the department are convinced that they’re the last bastion of true journalism and that the entire online world is worthless and that we’re going to hell in a handbasket as democracy dies in lockstep with journalism dying.
The first question I had for the class, about 25 students, mixed male/female, was “how many of you have a blog?” One gal bravely raised her hand. “Okay, how many of you have a blog or write “Notes” on Facebook or otherwise write with some frequency?” Two hands went up. That’s it. I was pretty darn surprised, needless to say. Journalism and mass communications students who aren’t writers? And they’re worried that us forward-thinking geeks are poisoning the well?
Then their instructor, Professor Dean Colby, jumped into the fray, positing that traditional, mainstream media is the heart of all journalism and that online bloggers “just aggregate but ultimately point back to traditional journalists”. His position, as far as I could tell, is that since bloggers and online commentators don’t have traditional journalistic training they have to piggyback on those that do, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, and so on.
“Did you read the article in yesterday’s New York Times about mom bloggers?” I asked. He hadn’t, but two students had (extra points for them!) “That’s the opposite of what you’re talking about: that’s a mainstream media piece written by a blogger likely without any journalistic training.”
“Ah, okay, but all bloggers are commentators, not reporters.” I got in response.
king canute commands the seaOkay, I can go down this rabbit hole, with some glee, truth be told, it’s a favorite topic of mine and I’ve explored it from stage more than once…
“So can I debunk a popular myth of journalism? There is no such thing as objectivity. All journalists, all publications, all media is biased. Don’t believe me? Compare the headlines in different papers for the exact same story. You can instantly see their bias. Or compare how two writers can “objectively” report on an event differently. Word choice, phrasing, how quotes are assembled, it all contributes.”
And so it went. We talked about how CNN is a bastion of journalism, except it now also relies on iReport reporters who don’t have any formal training, just a camera and access, and we did talk about how bloggers make money through advertising, sponsorships, and affiliate programs, using Dr. Colby’s fave site Denver Stiffs (a sports site) as an example.
Ultimately, it was an interesting conversation, but it’s been a while since I felt like I was in the position of defending what I see as the natural evolution of media and journalism. As I feared, my impression of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication remains that it’s a dinosaur howling at the impending climate change, it’s King Canute standing on the beach, commanding “Ocean, be thou still! I bid thee come not nearer to my feet!” even as the waves implacably roll in.
The world of information dissemination is evolving before our eyes, going from four channels of television to hundreds to thousands, from one or two major newspapers per community to dozens, and from mainstream outlets to everything being an outlet. Journalism is surely just as much about speed of dissemination as it is digging up the muck (a relatively modern invention in the journalistic world, btw), so Twitter users breaking the news of the Chilean earthquake way before any news outlets do is a harbinger of the future, not a change to be feared.
My thoughts to the students in the class are twofold. First, things change. Deal with it or be obsolete. The market determines what’s important, not your professors. Second, writers write. You should be writing every single day, even if it’s restaurant reviews or letters to your favorite pals. It’s a muscle, exercise it and you’ll thrive in a changing world of information.
And finally, to the department, this sea change in the world of news, journalism and information dissemination is way too big to deny and fear. Embrace it. Jump into the pool and see what happens. Otherwise you’re failing at the core mission of the School of Journalism: to produce journalists ready for the modern world and what will come tomorrow.

37 comments on “A class of CU journalism seniors, and only one was blogging?

  1. How depressing. Good thing they do not charge big bucks to go to CU. Makes no sense; journalism students not blogging or reading? With any luck the top students cut class and were at home blogging. You would think it would be a requirement?
    And the professor; he is right the MSM journalists always get it right. They called the financial crisis and the housing collapse. Most have been on vacation since the OJ. Amazing there are any local papers still out there.

  2. I am glad the students received your perspective and have the opportunity to think about it.
    I’ve talked to enough recent marketing grads and profs to conclude the students are on their own to learn about communicating and listening online.
    If journalism and marketing students are not getting this in school, it is not happening. School is where we need to be creating trends, not die because of them.

  3. Though the apathy among the students is rather disappointing, they are sharing the same attitude of their professional peers. True, media has and continues to change very rapidly. The recent movie “State of Play” illustrates this, as media tries to cover the bases of both blog and print. I’m all for blogging and free speech. What concerns me is the eroding quality of our ‘market driven’ news. We lost a paper in Denver, the Associated Press has a virtual monopoly on national news and cable news is highly opinionated. How can we maintain quality in this internet information environment?

  4. Hi Dave, I wasn’t particularly surprised about the answer to you question, “how many people blog,” though yes, I think you would expect a group of writers to write using a blog. I was surprised about the low number of people using Facebook. Maybe they all moved to FriendFeed!
    Anyway, the students are one group, but I am surprised by the professor’s questions, unless they were playing devil’s advocate. The industry is really going through a sea change and digital is here to stay.
    I was also wondering, what’s the difference between a reporter and a commentator? Not much, I agree with you Dave, you can have bloggers who are good journalists and journalists who are good bloggers. I think everything is merging.

  5. I’ve never met you, but I am totally on the same page with your views. If there is anything that is slower than newspapers to acclimate to change, it’s the J-school programs and professors. (Speaking from experience, having gone through an interdisciplinary program that included journalism courses.) Though I’d counter that if a student journalist wants to write old-school format daily with pen and paper in a journal, that’s fine too, they don’t have to blog online if the main point is for writers to write daily. It’s possible too that some of the students grok the Ivory Tower vs Real World situation but are afraid to speak out against their professors views, since it seems based on your post that he’s biased against online journalism and new media formats.

  6. Thank you for speaking to the class today. I and students always value the opportunity to hear about the experiences of actually existing media workers and new media entrepreneurs.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of news blogging. Great content is great content; doesn’t matter whether the product is newsgathering or critical commentary, satire, agitprop, or the diaries of media mothers.
    There are many examples of enterprise reporting produced by bloggers and social networking users. The problem is that newsgathering is expensive. The fact is, the lion’s share of regional news is produced by old media, especially by dailies: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1458/news-changing-media-baltimore
    I don’t defend moribund institutions from the threat of disruptive technologies. But the newspaper isn’t the 21st-century equivalent of the haberdashery. Not yet, anyway.
    Thanks for your visit!

  7. First off, I’ve got to say that I lie dead in the middle of this when it comes to traditional journalistic values vs. blogging. I really do believe in letting journalism wind down some new paths, but after my education in journalism (being a ‘radical’ at the CU School of Journalism and Mass Communication), I definitely see where they’re coming from.
    Now, I don’t think you had a very good sampling of students, for one, and two, we’re talking about the University of Colorado (I’m not alone in having a poor opinion of some of my classmates). And we’re also talking about a class that is not track-specific; you could have had a lot of advertising or broadcast students in your class, which means that they aren’t concentrating on writing, and if they are writing, they’re likely doing it within class. That isn’t to say that they shouldn’t be working on their writing, but it’s just more likely that you’d find bloggers in a News/Editorial-specific class. JOUR 4321 (which I remember and took from a faculty member who I think was adjunct or temporary), despite it being a good course, was kind of dry in comparison to my other courses; we did not discuss the future of media as much as we discussed the power structures and how media have been monetized for a while. That’s probably a flaw in the system, if you ask me.
    Things do change, yes. But there are certain facets of journalism that need to remain in place. There needs to be checks and balances, and while you understand and abide to the pressures of being a responsible blogger, that’s not necessarily how it is elsewhere. Yes, newspapers need to find a way for content to be supported by a system that helps these checks and balances remain intact. Otherwise the quality of information goes down. That’s what those students are talking about and I don’t disagree.
    There is one thing with which I strongly disagree: that the market determines what is important. Are you equating “the people” with “the market”? Because that consumerist idea is just as bad as, well, corporations. And while many newspapers don’t fall far from that tree, that’s not what journalism is. Our capitalist system has unfortunately boxed journalism into a place where a newspaper’s success is tied to its ownership’s success, but quality journalism does not necessarily come from methods that are most cost-effective. Finding a balance between the market and the people is what we need to do, and those students are not necessarily just following their professors — they’re seeing that it isn’t as simple as you in this post have made it out to be.
    The second bit of advice you give to students is what I think is most important. It doesn’t matter if that student is in a non-writing track — they should be writing. I whole-heartedly agree. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality, and you encountered a mixture of these circumstances: student in the other tracks; a class that is not aimed at theory, law, or ethics; many students who may never make it out into journalism and might not even be serious about it in the first place; and your own opinion that traditional journalism should just bend over to “the market” and abandon some of the characteristics that keep journalism — yes, one of democracy’s most important institutions — up to high standards of integrity.

  8. Good post Dave. You’re a brave man, walking into the Lion’s den as you did. But, if you got one of those students to look beyond the archaic parameters put on them you did good…..and I’m sure you did.

  9. I felt a very similar message in the halls of the MBA program… where the professors really felt that the only marketing worthwhile was to talk about how to best brand consumer packaged goods in grocery stores.
    The world changes, but the halls of academia can take years to follow… and that’s why good guest lecturers like you can often have a greater impact in one hour than the rest of the course material can over the course of a semester.
    I still remember when I was in business school in 1998-2000, and we had the person who launched Dell.com as a crazy way to get people to buy computers over the Web.

  10. Excellent job Dave! You’ve done your readers a great service here by drawing a conclusion about an entire journalism school — and smearing all of its students and faculty — based on one small data point: a visit to one class. Heck, there’s no need to speak with other professors and students here to find out what they do. No need to actually do a fair survey about blogging and attitudes toward new media among more than just a handful of students and one instructor. No need to actually gather more information in an attempt to be fair and accurate before sharing what you think you’ve learned with the world. If you had done that you might have discovered the truth, and goodness knows that’s not terribly exciting.
    No. It’s always much better to make snap judgments based on very little information. That makes for snappy, provocative copy! To hell with the truth. It’s boring.
    In all seriousness Dave, thank you so much for embodying in this one blog posting the quintessence of shoddy reporting. I can now use it to help our our students know what to avoid as journalists.

  11. Tom, thanks for your comment. What we have here is very much the future of journalism and news writing: I’ve opined based on my personal experience, I’ve received supporting comments that’s helped us create a discussion for readers to get information from a variety of different sources — including Dr. Colby — and they can read and draw their own conclusions.
    I would be honored to have this serve as an example of the future that’s already arrived in your Intro to Journalism class, Dr. Yulsman (yeah, I can do research too). Just make sure you frame it the right way: I propose that it’s not “snap judgments based on very little information”, it’s “sharing his thoughts and opinions, opening up a discussion on an important topic while it’s timely and topical”.
    But I can appreciate you and I having different perspectives.
    Ya see, here’s the core issue: I never said it was reporting and as I believe Dr. Colby himself said this morning, journalism is moving from reporting to commentary anyway, perhaps muchly because of the rise of online. Newspapers also now allow comments and feedback and many of the most cutting-edge journalists are bloggers too. It’s all happening, it’s all changing, and calling me out for what you see as “shoddy reporting” is nonsensical when I wasn’t reporting in the first place.
    Oh, and your Intro to Journalism class? I’d be happy to come in and debate this subject with you for the students benefit. After all, I have a vested interest in the health of the fourth estate too: I write for newspapers, news weeklies and monthly magazines, including our own Boulder Daily Camera.

  12. What other faculty here have you actually spoken with Dave? Aside from one class that you visited, what other students have you actually spoken with? How did you reach your sweeping conclusions about an entire faculty and all the students? What do you really know about us from visiting one class and asking a relative handful of students a few questions?
    Perhaps you know more than you’ve mentioned in this blog posting. So let your readers know. Tell us exactly how you’ve decided that I and all of my colleagues and all of our students are such losers.
    For the record, I must say that you’ve never actually spoken with me. (And don’t pretend that you’ve actually done “research.” If you had, you would have learned that I actually do not hold a Ph.D.) From the evidence at hand, it does not seem that you’ve spoken with many of my colleagues, if any at all aside from Colby. You’ve clearly have not taken the time to see what I and some of my other colleagues do and teach in the way of blogging, or, for that matter, what some of our students are doing in their own blogs. You also haven’t bothered to learn anything of the really innovative projects that have been launched in the J-school.
    In short you went in to the class with your mind already made up and so you saw only what you wanted to see.
    Also for the record: I operate a very successful blog: http://www.cejournal.net. I also encourage my students to blog. I teach blogging. And I’m not the only faculty member here who does that.
    As for debating you, there’s actually nothing to debate. I believe mainstream news media have missed the boat. As I said, I’m a blogger, and some of my best journalist friends are bloggers (including Andrew Revkin of the New York Times). I also think blogging is an essential part of the new journalistic world. And I am not the only faculty member here who feels that way.
    So there’s no point in debating. We’d probably agree on most things. Except on the paramount importance of seeking the truth.

  13. Dave,
    I think the central point Tom was working towards was the rather uninformed perspective about our program you bring to bear even as you pass summary judgment. This doesn’t appear to be merely a “difference of perspectives,” unless you’re supposing that uninformed opinions hold equal weight with those based on more direct knowledge, careful introspection and fact-checking.
    It appears you visited one of our classes most likely to be populated by students from the media studies sequence, taught by one of our adjunct professors. I’m not taking anything away from any of our classes, sequences or our adjuncts, but I wonder if it occurred to you that you might want to preface the questions you did ask with another one: “are any of you planning to enter journalism as a profession?” Chances are, you would have had few, if any, hands raised.
    Though we are in the midst of implementing a sweeping curriculum reform, the classes being taught this semester in our school are still built around the older curriculum organized around five sequences: news-editorial, broadcast news, broadcast production, advertising and media studies. Of the five sequences, media studies is the one section that does not teach media production or reporting skills, as the students enrolled in that sequence are seeking to study and understand media from a critical cultural perspective.
    Now, had you asked that question in one of our senior-level news-editorial classes, I suspect you would have seen more hands. In my own classes, I require my students to blog (and have for years), and I know I am not the only faculty member to do so. And it is rare that I encounter one of my students who is not engaging in social networking activity.
    So, just for the sake of clarification, your post suggests:
    “as I have learned from a number of students and community members, most everyone in the department is convinced that they’re the last bastion of true journalism and that the entire online world is worthless and that we’re going to hell in a handbasket as democracy dies in lockstep with journalism dying.”
    I’m quite sure that “most everyone” in this case could not include the faculty or students from the advertising sequence, the broadcast production sequence or the media studies sequence. These sequences do not emphasize journalism instruction, “true” or otherwise. And so most of our faculty don’t appear to fit into your “most everyone” assertion.
    And so it appears the presumption about the “warm welcome” you didn’t expect to receive would appear to be derived from a “number of students and community members” who were talking about a different part of our school than the course in which you were invited to participate. I have no doubt that erroneous assumption coupled with your own misunderstanding about who it was you were addressing in the classroom was more likely the cause of your surprise than any deficiency in our school’s curriculum.
    Beyond that, let me point out a few other errors contained in your post and following comments. I believe neither Dean Colby nor Tom Yulsman have earned doctorates, and yet you ascribe that title to each of them. We may not often distinguish between titles and positions within our walls, but your use of the titles appears in the very sentence in which you tout your own research ability.
    Our program is not a department, but a school. And we do not have departments within our school, but sequences.
    And yes, Tom Yulsman does teach our Principles of Journalism course in some semesters, though his more regular assignments include Science Writing and several courses involving environmental reporting. He’s also the primary for the Center for Environmental Journalism’s blog, and he posts regularly (often many times a day).
    I would not presume to lecture Tom on the forms and practices associated with new media.
    When Tom Yulsman points out shoddy reporting in your work, he’s not making an inference about the presumed rigors of media formats. If you did a little research, you’d see that he publishes across many platforms, but most often in the online world these days. I believe his point was that shoddy reporting is shoddy reporting in any medium. In this case, YOUR reporting in your post appears to be the source of Tom’s ire. Yes, you expressed some opinion and offer some commentary, but you also present facts which are in error and offer analysis that represents the worst of the unexamined conjecture-laden reputation the blogosphere has earned.
    So, now with a little more context, perhaps you see why Tom charged you with making “snap judgments based on very little information.” The errors, easily prevented with a visit to our school’s Web site, or by pulling the university catalog and looking under the curriculum organization for our school, might make it difficult for your readers to accept your summary judgments and assumptions about such a large group of diverse people you don’t appear to have met.
    Sadly, I don’t think either I nor Tom (or perhaps other members of the faculty) would actually take you to task for the essential core of your message: some of our students are not taking advantage of the wealth of media opportunities around them. We talk about the state of writing of our students frequently. And though you clearly wanted to present our opinions and voices on these issues, it does not appear you tried very hard to consult with faculty to determine their attitudes and opinions. Rather you relied on hearsay and supposition to report our voice to your readers.
    If your goal were to create useful dialogue, one might think coming to some of use in the trenches to ask questions might be a good approach before characterizing what “most everyone” in the school thinks or is “convinced” of.
    Or just link to us to provide the necessary context for your readers, for many of us blog.

  14. Background: As the TA on this class, I was asked by Dean to invite Dave to speak with the class about blogging. This came directly following a conversation (in front of the class) where I stated that many people make a good living from the practise of blogging, and that I knew one of them lived right here in Boulder. Dean then asked me to invite him to speak to the class, and I said I would reach out and invite Dave.
    Thus I invited Dave (whom I had never had the privilege of meeting offline,nor speaking with online, but in our small town I was aware Dave had taken up a number of guest lecturing opportunities), and I believe we all – myself, Dean and the students – felt grateful for his time, effort, input and visit, for which he received no compensation at all – not even a parking pass.
    As a college teacher for five years in Australia before moving to the US, I recognize how hard it is to have guests accept an offer to come in to discuss current practice. We are definitely
    spoiled in Boulder, with so many accomplished professionals readily willing to freely give their time to CU.
    I believe a couple of faculty are jumping the gun here in accusing Dave of things he did not purport to do. For example, this blog is not a traditional reporting news format blog, and Dean Colby is listed as gaining a PhD in the SJMC’s own Alumni Newsletter as of 2004 http://www.colorado.edu/journalism/bylines/spring06/features/phd.html – unless it is a different Dean Colby. If this were a traditional news journalism article, I’d take the time to ask him before reporting it, but it’s not, so I won’t. I won’t even say “my understanding is…”
    That said, I think those are details that do not deter from the overall message our guest discussed in class.
    The point of Dave’s visit was to, I believe, demonstrate that a real income can be made from blogging, and how income is made through that medium (after all, the class does look at the business side of media, and the financial aspects of blogging are highly relevant). That was certainly all of our intent coming in.
    It appears that this is turning into some type of old lens view of the media landscape, instead of practically offering alternative formats of real income possibilities to students that reflect the fact you can publish your own work professionally, and do not need to wait until you are employed by a media empire to do so. I have been a graduate student at the school since 2008, and it is not a view I have seen offered, looking at advertising revenue, affiliate marketing, FTC regulations and how SEO works. Dave kindly offered the inquisitive students, Dean and myself great insight into all of these.
    Of course Dave can only offer his view and experience – but his experience in blogging is extensive and he was honest in his reaction to the class. I believe some more respect and less knee-jerk reaction is called for, by those who were not in the room.
    While Dean and Dave definitely disagree, there is (and was in the classroom) real mutual respect. We were all smiling at all times. I would not wish this to be overshadowed by other comments here. I also thank Dave for his time and effort. I believe he appreciates a different perspective of journalism and its media moving forward, and hope the students found value in his message.

  15. Rick, et. al., can you see how you’re King Canute, standing on the shoreline, watching the waves of new media and online journalism and saying “Stop! You’re not doing it to the standards we espouse!”?
    Here’s my take on this entire discussion: what you and I believe about whether this article is a solid piece of thoughtful blogging that helps spawn an engaging and interesting discussion or whether it’s crappy, biased and poorly researched sham journalism by a lazy hack is irrelevant.
    I am a harbinger, a messenger from the future of journalism, and even within that am also the odd man out as a blogger who also has a background in journalism and is a published, professional writer. Heck, the vast majority of bloggers couldn’t care less about journalism. Bloggers and “citizen journalists” are passionate but completely untrained in my experience and, in the immortal words of the great zombie films, they’re coming…
    You say “some of our students are not taking advantage of the wealth of media opportunities around them”. I’d like to suggest that we steer the conversation towards that topic, as that’s ultimately my core concern after visiting the class, and you certainly seem to agree with me as a faculty member who obviously has far greater insight into the situation.
    What opportunities do journalism students have through the School of Journalism, who are the shining star undergrads that are doing great work, and why aren’t others jumping at the chance to find their “voice” as writers and learn how to help create the fusion between traditional journalism and shoot-from-the-hip online citizen journalism and commentary? And, finally, how could a consortium of journalists and bloggers help them gain the skills that they need to succeed in the brave new world of modern media?
    I can accept you not being happy about the message, but please, don’t shoot the messenger and presume you’ve neatly wrapped things up. As I said, we’re coming and there’s no way to stop the tide… (only partially tongue-in-cheek)
    Instead, I challenge your department to create a constructive and beneficial dialog with the extraordinary resources you have in the greater Boulder/Denver entrepreneurial and business community to collectively help push the state of the art and produce graduating classes of world-class modern journalists ready for what may come.

  16. Great post!
    I think most professionally trained journalists lack specific domain knowledge. As a result, they could easily “tricked” by their sources.
    I was very fortunate to read several well-written finance blogs (instead of relying on popular finance magazines) right before the financial crisis took place. The blogs really helped me to get a better understanding of what’s going on in the financial world.
    Finance bloggers such as CalculatedRisk might not be as “professionally written” as business periodicals, but they offer whole lot of substance and authentic observations. It’s time for journalism professionals to wake up! 🙂

  17. Dave: Your “King Canute” comment reveals you for who you really are — someone who actually has no interest in the truth and actually no interest in real discussion either. If you had bothered to find out what we’re doing here in the J-school rather than trading in rumor and innuendo, you would have seen that quite a few faculty and students here are riding the crest of the wave, not waiting for it to crash over them on the shore.
    But if you want to criticize me for espousing “standards,” I’ll accept that ridiculous criticism proudly. I’m sure your readers have been very interested to hear from you that you are not actually interested in truth or standards.
    Just to be clear, I am not arguing that you should work like a journalist. I have merely said that you should at least make an attempt to get your facts straight before you smear literally hundreds of students in this school, and dozens of faculty members, instructors and adjuncts.
    But evidently you seem to believe that as a blogger it’s okay for you to say anything you want with total disregard for the truth, as long as it furthers some sort of “discussion.” If that’s your game, go right ahead. In the end, you will sink or swim as a communicator based on your credibility. And that might mean more traffic for bloggers who can actually be trusted — a very positive outcome.

  18. Really, Tom? Can you say “can’t see the forest for the trees”?
    And, using your rhetorical style, I can see that you are coming out publicly that you have no interest in even discussing the possibility of any sort of partnership between those of us in the field, the New Journalists (like it or not), and those of you in academia. Maybe you already have one in place, but why not mention it here? Do you not think Google will help people find this dialog?
    Well (again following your rhetorical style), on the positive side, your continued comments will help ensure that prospective New Journalism students will be able to make smart and informed decisions about which school will best serve their future professional interests. A very positive outcome.
    Look, I don’t really care if you approve of what I’m doing or if you think I’m doing a good job or am a hack who is, I dunno, lying through my teeth and completely disregarding the truth to make a buck.
    I’m more interested in the students in the class, the students who are poised to graduate into about as dismal a professional landscape as any field I can imagine, and whether there’s anything us professional bloggers and New Media types can do to help prepare them for their future.

  19. Dave: Maybe if you actually bothered to learn the truth you would know that I and many of our students already do all sorts of “new journalism.” I just have no interest in collaborating with someone who thinks trading in rumor and smearing hundreds of students and dozens of faculty is perfectly okay.

  20. And yet, Tom, neither you nor any of the other faculty have shared a single URL of any online publication for which you or your students are frequent contributors. Instead you just keep popping back with these ad hominem attacks that sidestep the point and keep railing about “The Truth” as if this is all some sort of X Files episode. I’ve said time and again that this is a commentary, it’s my opinion, it’s based on my experience. I’m not an academic assessor who has to interview the faculty and study matriculation data, that’s never what it’s been about nor is that required for me to be able to make the point I’ve wanted to make.
    Imagine how differently this debate would have gone, how differently you would have come across, if you would have said “You raise some important issues and they’re our concerns too, Dave. That’s why we’ve been working on the XXYY Collaboration project, at [[some url]], and would love to have you check it out and offer our students feedback on how they’re doing. This is a complicated world with the extraordinary range of publishing options — far more than when I started in journalism! — and everyone who can help us navigate and figure out how to retain the ethics and professionalism of journalism as we travel the journey is a welcome collaborator.”
    I’m disappointed in our dialog yet unsurprised in our inability to attain any sort of result that demonstrates that I’m wrong. I’ve been insulted and attacked, slandered on my own site, but only once was there even a hint that, well, yeah, I’m right and it is a brave new world and too few students are taking advantage of the resources available to them to gain valuable career experience prior to graduation.
    I will wish you, but more importantly, your students good luck as they leave the halls of academia and find out that in the real world, things aren’t quite so cut and dry and that their field of journalism and mass communciations is evolving at an extraordinary, staggering rate. That as with any profession nowadays, it’s ultimately about adapt or die. Good luck to you all.

  21. As a student of the CU School of Journalism and Mass Communication, I feel like I should speak up.
    It is true that many faculty members at the school are set in their printing press ways. However, as students, we are afforded many opportunities to join the digital world.
    Rick Stevens’ Digital Newsroom course has been one of the most influential and fruitful classes that I have taken in my years at CU. Through his instruction, I learned enough about Web development to leverage a position as Web editor at a local magazine this semester (I graduate in May). His knowledge of Web culture has been an asset to the school and its students.
    “And yet, Tom, neither you nor any of the other faculty have shared a single URL of any online publication for which you or your students are frequent contributors.”
    http://www.cuindependent.com
    The student-run campus newspaper (full disclosure: I am the editor-in-chief) is based entirely online. Our staff of almost 100 journalism students has learned how critical the Web is for journalists through rapid deadlines and the power of networking.
    There are absolutely places where the J-school needs to improve in regard to online journalism. However, Rick is right in that 1) many students don’t take advantage of the wealth of opportunity presented to them, and 2) reaching out to a media studies class is not likely to gain the same response as reaching out to students who actually intend to work as journalists.
    I respect your stance on bloggers, because I truly believe that the amazing thing about journalism is that we have the power to educate and inform the masses. So when bloggers take what we do and go one step further to comment and call for action, that means we’ve done our job. The power of the fourth estate is an amazing thing. And while bloggers and journalists may often feel at odds with each other, a peaceful coexistence has a lot of strength.

  22. As a friend and fan of Dave Taylor for the last five years, the one thing I’m fairly certain about is that he’s moderating this somewhat heated debate in a tie dye t-shirt while sipping a latte! I also believe he’s loving every word he reads and writes. Dave is getting exactly what he wants out of this post; a lively discussion that covers both sides of of the argument. He wants people to vent, to be passionate, and to write!
    Whether its commerce, public relations, or journalism the Internet has changed the way we interact with each other. The public is slowly starting to rely on what their peers say versus a sales staff, television reporters or newspaper writers. Bloggers, the Twitterverse and Facebook are taking time away from old school media and that IS NOT going to change. Using Seldon’s psychohistory model, it’s clear that mainstream journalism as we know it will be completely different for future generations.

  23. Dave,
    I can see this discussion quickly degenerating. So let me make one final set of observations and then you may continue on this course without me.
    I am having trouble not resenting your implications that you are some oracle of the future and I, because I am currently on a journalism faculty, am some kind of entrenched luddite, obsessed with preserving a social institution of journalism that excludes those not within its ranks from communicating.
    First of all, I take exception to the charge that academics are generally further behind the technology curve than industry, which is behind the “oracle” bloggers and innovators. I remind you that Roger Fidler wrote about the digital transfer and its effect on industry norms in his landmark Mediamorphosis 15 years ago, while he was appointed to the very faculty at CU Boulder you now disparage. I think it’s fair to say that although he predicted many of the changes to our industry (including the need for a Kindle/iPad- like solution to material production), his observations were largely ignored by the industry and society in general. Oracles generally predate widespread understandings, not merely join bandwagons long after many of the critical arguments have aged a decade.
    And Fidler’s just an example. A local example. Yes, some older faculty can be resistant to change that the marketplace lunges for, just like older executives, older politicians and older consumers are also resistant to change. But that’s a function of the adoption curve, not a problem in any one institution or segment of society. Truth be told, there were many voices coming from academia as far back as the 1970s warning about the need to adopt new cultural and institutional values in preparation for the coming digital revolution. To pretend otherwise is to profess willful ignorance of history.
    And serving as a younger member of this faculty, I can tell you that the portrayal you offer for “most everyone” in our school is simply incorrect. There is certainly a wide distribution of technical skills when it comes to digital production ability, but I’m not sure I’ve heard anyone suggest that independent digital expressions or those that use them are somehow naturally inferior to institutional media. If anything, I hear more disappointment with the decline in discourse within the institutional setting than criticism about the activity occurring along the emergent platforms.
    However you arrived at your assertion that “most everyone” on faculty at the CU School of Journalism are somehow slavishly attempting to maintain a dying institution by shutting our eyes to what’s happening around us, you are simply in error. I suspect that the hearsay you cite in your post was generated by second-hand experiences with particular personalities that hardly represent the faculty as a whole, which just demonstrates the danger of relying solely on hearsay.
    Second, I firmly reject your case that what you do is not “reporting,” so irresponsibility in communication is somehow more acceptable than in other forms of communication. In this age, one can just as easily be found guilty of libel (for example) by sending an email, posting to Facebook, posting on message boards or by posting blog posts as he or she can through traditional mass media forms. The walls between interpersonal and mass media are collapsing, but so far that has resulted in courts treating media forms caught in the middle as mass media.
    I was there when the nascent blogosphere debated the Sean Paul Kelley case in 2002 and saw the community rifts that the suggestion of a code of ethics for the blogosphere caused. I saw many bloggers, such saw Rebecca Blood, adopt such a code based on the earliest ethical codes from print journalism’s 20th century roots. I saw other deride the constraints of even attempting to form standards of ethics for such a diverse set of activities.
    But the point is that Sean Paul Kelley still blogs, but has lost much respect among bloggers and media professionals alike.
    But more to the point, you offer harsh criticism of a group of people you do not appear to know or have spoken to, while at the same time, you demonstrate exactly why some of them have a fair reason to be concerned. Simply put: if more of our news and information sources made the kinds of mistakes and unfounded assertions on a regular basis that you did in this post instead of consulting primary sources and fact-checking, our democracy would indeed be in trouble.
    Third, I personally resent your implication that I am standing on any shore and calling for anything to stop. Or that you are somehow “odd” because you’ve published and blog. Pull Tom Yulsman’s CV and you’ll see he’s published in many environments including the blogosphere, just like you. As for myself, I’ve been a blogger since 2001. During the 1990s, I was a media consultant who helped companies and individuals understand the implications of moving into a new digital environment. I’ve been a harsh critic of institutional media, and have frequently championed the cause of new media practitioners, whether they were bloggers, the earliest YouTube artists, nonprofit enterprises … you name it. I blog for the Huffington post and contribute to others, while still maintaining several personal blogs. I was on an early adopter of Friendster back in the day, I was an early MySpace adopter, I was on Facebook in early 2004 the moment it became available at my previous institution. I had the original iPod (and have owned five different models and two different iPhones) and began podcasting in 2005. I produce content for the Kindle and the Nook (and teach our students to do the same), and I have just placed an order for the iPad so I can teach our students to do the same for that device. Each semester, my students blog, create comprehensive multimedia packages, develop iPhone apps, leverage social networking for both professional and personal journalistic enterprise, etc. And again, I am hardly alone in offering these opportunities (check out the student-create resolvingdoor.com, another project showcasing our news-editorial student’s digital media work).
    I’m currently on the advisory boards of four new media projects, including the CU Digital Media Test Kitchen (in itself an obvious example of the fallaciousness of your judgment of our school’s faculty. Why “challenge” us to do something we’ve been doing for some time now? Do a little homework before you make such assertions, please). In terms of networking, I’ve personally met the principles from the Daily Kos, I’ve talked to Dan Gilmour on several occasions, I’ve shared conversations with John Pavlik, Lawrence Lessig, Jay Rosen, Roger Fidler and many others who’ve been talking about these issues for quite some time (some of them for decades).
    I, and at least some of our colleagues, already have relationships with the “New Journalists” to which you refer. You’ve hardly been the first or most prominent blogger or new media practitioner that’s had interaction with our school. I study communication across media platforms. I teach our students how writing (among other formats) is different in print, on the Web, on mobile devices, on microblogs, on eReaders, etc. I also stress what the common characteristics (thus far) have been.
    Despite all of these environments, discussions and activities, I recognize the dangers of irresponsible communication, whether it is a conversation among friends in a bar, a post to a blog, a Facebook status update, a FourSquare update, a tweet, or an article published in newsprint. If you had sent the same information to me in an email message, I’d still object to the hearsay, faulty logic, erroneous assumptions, and factual errors. And certainly from someone who purports to define for others what *MY* attitudes and opinions towards new media practitioners. And I’d likely choose to ignore your writings as I do many other bloggers within any of the various political echo chambers. In the blogosphere, credibility comes not from institutional branding but from the strong ties of experience, social capital, and the other intangibles of networked relationships.
    So hear me saying that I see your claim for seeking open dialogue rather shallow, because your behavior appears to violate the social norms of most new media communities and offline communities alike, not merely the institutional norms of professional news agencies. You insult me and then challenge me to engage in activities I’ve already long engaged in for your purposes? This is how you purport that the future of communication should operate?
    I am also not surprised this exchange has gone so poorly, but I can point to your first three paragraphs as the direct culprit for that.
    Again, I have no real problem with your core message (concerning the lack of media involvement by some students). But when you contextualize it by sliming people you’ve never met in such an obvious way, I simply cannot come to the table openly for discussion. Because I struggle to respect your judgment, when my limited experience with it shows me a dearth of rigor and balance.
    And finally for the record, let me just say that I’m not sure this discussion would have been fruitful anyway. Many of the observations you offer are nether new nor noteworthy. Our academy critiqued objectivity as a social construct in the 1970s. The last major professional ethics code removed the word “objectivity” in favor of “balance” and “fairness” in the 1990s. In fact, I hear more about the faulty construct of “objectivity” from bloggers than I ever do from media practitioners (and yes, 2004 was a watershed year for that fight among bloggers, through the industry and the academy had long moved past it). The “objectivity critique” is beginning to seem like a straw man fallacy, considering how long it’s been since the profession and academy of journalism and media studies have sought to utilize, much less defend, that particular construct.
    And citizen journalism? Try Googling “community journalism” and see if you can locate the roots of the movement from the 1960s that led to the emergence of non-professional alternatives to the corporate media machine. This is hardly a new development, nor does it even have roots in the digital tools you use to participate in it. Alternative comix, alternative newspapers, pirate radios, bloggers, podcasters … same song, different verse.
    I don’t mean to condescend, but this is precisely why first Tom and then I objected to your assertions about the journalism academy, in general, and our particular school, specifically. Yes, I know that our community is somewhat opaque with its seemingly impenetrable network of journals, research associations and sometimes idiosyncratic peer-reviewed outlets. Our work often escapes casual surveillance. But that doesn’t mean I accept or excuse the assertions from without that appear to be derived solely from uninformed hearsay and a failure to fact-check even the most obvious and available information resources.
    As to the topic you wish to shift towards, the surprising lack of media involvement (or desire for involvement) on the part of some of our students, this phenomenon appears to have less to do with the opportunities available within or without our school, and more to do with the generational attitudes toward media (particularly the supposition of visual media preference for written forms) on the parts of the Millennials. Another topic you can read about from sociologists and media scholars, going back several years.
    Please don’t hear defensiveness in my response. I genuinely want you to see why some of the faculty might take exception to both your characterization of our school and faculty and your attempt to position yourself as “oracle” for a set of issues studied deeper, longer and with much more rigor by some of the very individuals you refer to as King Canute (in direct contradiction to painfully available facts).

  24. Dave,
    As one of the students in the class, I feel like I need to say something here. No, I do not write, on a regular basis. But had you taken the time to figure out who we were, rather than assuming we were a lazy batch of students, maybe you would have found out that there’s more to us than you might think.
    My name is Stephanie Davis, and yes, I am on the news-editorial path, set to graduate in December 2010. I am a semester behind, because I spent a semester studying abroad in Indonesia. While I was there, I was a regular contributor to the CU Independent, writing weekly columns about my experience there. But that wasn’t my main focus there. It was photojournalism. My decision to study abroad put me behind a bit, but I still could have graduated on time, if I hadn’t been working the last three-and-a-half years doing the following:
    Seven semesters with the CU Independent. I have been a photographer, photo editor, managing editor, multimedia editor and columnist.
    Photography intern with the Camera, which led to being a paid freelancer.
    Working 20+ hours a week at a retail store, giving up the majority of my weekends. I don’t remember the last time I was drunk, because frankly, I don’t have time.
    And yet, I can’t consider myself a writer. I have a photo blog, yes, but no, I do not write. Often.
    And on top of all of this, I maintain a healthy social life, relationship, and oh yeah, school.
    I know how to build a Web site. I know how to use Finalcut Pro, and design layout in Indesign. I can put together a rather impressive Flash animation. I have people skills, and I know the value of a story that is told well.
    I hate to say it, because I have had one hell of a ride with the journalism school, but I would not have the skill set I have, had I not been enrolled where I am. I’ve hated the institution and a few of the instructors, but you fail to recognize where the school may be succeeding, all based off of a single class, filled primarily with media studies students, who have no interest in writing.
    When you generalized us, you didn’t even know that the student publication was the CU Independent, rather than the Colorado Daily. Who, if I may say, is a partner paper to the Camera, owned by Media News Group (not Scripps, like you incorrectly stated in class).
    Next time you want to generalize an entire school, please, do your research, and look at more than one class than one.
    And have I mentioned that I do not believe in the traditional media model, and cannot wait to see what new media will evolve?

  25. While I found Dave’s post interesting, what I found even more interesting was the visceral reaction in some of the comments.
    Let me start by saying that while one class of students may not, and probably does not, paint a complete picture of the CU Journalism Department, it is a representation worthy of discussion. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, the members of this class blog at a rate of only 25 percent of the population of the journalism school as a whole, I would maintain that is still embarrassingly low for a group of—as Dave so rightly points out—writers in 2010. Even at a 4x ration to what Dave described, four out of 25 is too few for students aspiring to be writers.
    Although I wasn’t around in 1950, I have read accounts of “newspapermen” turning their noses up at television reporters during that time. Yet, I believe we call all agree broadcast journalists like Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite certainly earned their chops as “journalists” right along with the print writers of the day.
    I also believe “journalism” has absolutely nothing to do with where the words live—from the New York Times to a blog to YouTube—but has everything to do with the tenets of the craft itself. I’ll take a well-researched, properly documented and well-written blog post over a shoddy newspaper story all day long. Today, blogs are in their infancy from an infrastructure standpoint compared to mainstream media, but the same was once true for radio vs. newspapers or cable news vs. network broadcasts. Times change, but the tenets of journalism do not. Embrace them wherever the live, and demand them wherever they are absent.
    Many journalists who would even pass the test as such from your most critical commenters—people like Om Malik or Dan Gillmor—now embrace these new places to give their words a new home and their readers a place to find them.
    Let’s also remember that it was members of the blogosphere who found egregious errors from Dan Rather (then with CBS News) as well as the New York Times. Does that make blogs better than mainstream media outlets? No. It means that good reporting—and shoddy reporting—can be found in both places.
    Is every blogger a journalist? Of course not. However, I can name at least 10 blogs that do a better job of reporting real news than the average morning news program, local or national. In today’s media landscape, we must place more value in the quality of the reporting than the location of the words.

  26. When I first read this entry, I was offended and taken aback by your words and hasty judgment of one class at our J-School. Two great professors have adequately put you in your place, but as a student at the SJMC, I want to state my reaction.
    I am sorry you had an unfortunate experience at our school and that the students you talked to appeared uninterested and apathetic. It’s ridiculous that you decided everything in your post based off of one single class. Or maybe you used the words of others to decide the value of our school before you even entered the Armory. My best professors have taught me never to rely on second hand, anonymous information.
    A better way to express your frustration would have been sharing an experience about one journalism class. Maybe you should have discussed your irritation about one experience, instead of charging the whole school with a generalization that is clearly not true. You definitely went too far.
    As a school, we most certainly need to use new technology and classes are offered to teach us skills that we will have to have in order to succeed after J-school. Students should be blogging and keeping up with new media that we can use as tools, and a lot of us are. I have a blog, use many social media platforms, have a job as a social media strategist and read blogs daily. To say I am resisting new technology is ludicrous.
    Education is what you make of it. I, and a lot of other journalism students are seeking out the tools you say we ignore. We are making the best of our time at this great school and trying out new mediums for reporting. And you’re right, I am under the impression and have been taught all along that the fundamentals of reporting should remain unchanged during this transitory time for journalism. For professors to say otherwise would be irresponsible and false.
    You made a bad judgement. My professors have taught me that good reporters do their homework before writing stories. You really could have benefitted from taking my reporting classes at the SJMC, as clearly this is one lesson you never learned.

  27. Dave,
    I imagine that cross on your shoulder is starting to feel heavy, huh? Your rhetoric of “don’t shoot the messenger,” is getting old. This binary that you have constructed between us stubborn technophobes who just won’t accept the gospel of Dave Taylor, and you the messiah and messenger of the future, is not productive in the least. Oh woe is you, just trying to show us the light, just trying to show us that we are futilely resisting the ever-encroaching future, just trying to pull us out of our dark corners where we crouch, clutching our linotype machines and green visors.
    Think again.
    As another proud student of SJMC, I am appalled at your flagrant devaluation of my education and underestimation of my abilities as both a journalist and a writer. Furthermore, as a former editor for the online publication that came to be known as the CU Independent, it saddens me to hear you delegitimize the tireless and innovative efforts of literally hundreds of students over the past decades to build and maintain a modern, forward-looking product. The CU Independent recently unveiled the Speak Out! campaign, a groundbreaking initiative devised to advocate for social justice issues via the publication’s entirely online platform. The CU Independent, formerly the Campus Press was the first student publication in the nation to move entirely online. So, please stop assuming we live in the past.
    Is our school perfect? No. Is our school always working to improve, especially in the area of modern journalism? I think Professors Yulsman and Stevens have made that abundantly clear. I would like to sincerely thank both of them for standing up for both our school and the student body. It reminds me why I am proud to be in the J-School.
    For you to stand on your soap box and wax acerbic on the deficiencies of my peers and instructors based on one class of media-studies track students is pathetic at best. If you return to our school, please check your pretentious, condescending attitude at the door.
    As Professors Yulsman and Stevens and my fellow students have already exhaustively evaluated your inadequacies in this matter, I will leave it at that and bid you adieu.

  28. Rather interesting commentary, thoughts, and suggestions here. It is interesting that the defenders of the one class you attended “does not make the school” argument when, in fact, the class is a small sample of the school, while it maybe not statistically valid sample, it is a sample nonetheless.
    What is sad is the lack of the willingness of the students in your class were unwilling to write to better oneself, but then again if I remember myself at their age, I was probably the same way. While technologies have changed, people have not. Whether old or young people, new or old technologies, we’re all people that need to communicate, accurately, fairly, and truthfully. And ethics is not a journalistic thing, it’s a human being thing.
    Dave, I would certainly 100% agree with your statement “Second, writers write. You should be writing every single day, even if it’s restaurant reviews or letters to your favorite pals. It’s a muscle, exercise it and you’ll thrive in a changing world of information.”
    As I was beginning to write my book, soon to be POD published, the one thing a friend stated is that writing IS using a muscle. That over the period of time you are writing your writing changes. Start writing chapter 1 and by chapter 23 your writing had changed, hopefully for the better.
    I’m currently reading the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and he talked about his early days of writing under a pen name to get his writings “accepted” and published by his older brother. If his brother had found out he wrote it his brother and friends would have “pummeled” him for not believing that Ben had written it himself. Sounds like a professor or two, some journalists I know, and generally even a “forward thinkers” or two that can have the same attitude here: Not Invented Here (NIH). Or, I don’t believe it so therefore it does not exist.
    The bias I see on a daily basis, old versus young, technophile or technophobic, will always be there. I had a communications major at a Colorado Springs radio station tell me today that Mac people don’t understand technologies because they can’t send a PDF to their professor. I had to kindly correct him and state that it was not the Mac person but the MS email server that was probably the culprit since you could take the “offending” PDF on a CD and open it up in any PC or Mac with little or no problems.
    Writing is not my first love, but it is a means to an end for me, to convey my way of thinking and seeing things. I really work at writing whereas you, Dave, and others here may have it come as natural as breathing. I would suggest that journalism students see the film “The Teacher’s Pet” with Doris Day and Clark Gable and see if the arguments are not the same today as they were when the film was done, especially the scene when Gable does not meet the word requirements Day places on her “student”. I just wish I had done better at writing in school, but it’s never too late.
    I would suggest that we don’t close the door on each other, that’s how walls are built and stagnation occurs in our minds. Keep at it, the struggle is worth it in the end.

  29. Dave: I’d like to thank you one thing you said in your post:
    “…as I have learned from a number of students and community members, most everyone in the department is convinced that they’re the last bastion of true journalism and that the entire online world is worthless and that we’re going to hell in a handbasket as democracy dies in lockstep with journalism dying.”
    This will really come in handy in the blogging class I hope to teach soon as a clear example of a “straw man” argument. Thank you so much!

  30. CalculatedRisk might not be as “professionally written” as business periodicals, but
    …but, CalculatedRisk doesn’t do newsgathering. They do excellent analysis, but only rare, and mostly anecdotal, news. CR aggregates, snips, paraphrases, the business press. It’s an excellent site, particularly when “tanta” was alive. But they don’t do news.

  31. As a journalism student who heard the discussion the other day in the CU classroom, I have mixed feelings on these subjects.
    I will first defend my fellow students and say that just because we don’t blog doesn’t mean that we are being brainwashed by our professors or don’t read/write everyday. Personally, I work for the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder. I’ve also done an internship at Fox Sports and at a local radio station. I say this because through my experience as a 22 year old journalist in the year 2010 I have come to understand a couple things about the industry. First, a lot of it is about following directions. In the discussion we had in class, Dave admitted that blogging is not objective and tried to push this claim upon traditional journalism. I think is COMPLETELY FALSE. I get paid $50 per game to go to a high school basketball game and write a story, which includes keeping stats and interviewing both players and coaches afterwards. In no way would I suggest that you MUST have a journalism degree to complete this task, but the assumption that this kind of news will be produced to the quality it is now by bloggers is dreamy at best. When we write sports for the Daily Camera there isn’t bias. We write what happened and only what happened. We hear what the players and coaches say happened. The public doesn’t hear what I think happened because sometimes with news it’s better to leave that alone. That’s the whole point of journalism. I don’t want to overemphasize the word ‘objective’, but in a sense it is very important. It’s not because I’ve been brainwashed in the Media Studies program at CU but rather that from working in media people want to know what’s happening, not what you (the journalist) thinks is happening. Just as we are creators of information, we are disseminators. Bloggers can create just as journalists can, but trained journalists disseminate information in the right format. Everything has bias inherently, but the actual journalism that is taking place is most definitely as objective as possible from my personal experience.
    The good thing about traditional journalism as opposed to the new world of blogging is that there is some oversight and structure. If there is an important sports game (I focus on this because it is the industry I work in) that must be covered, and there is not an editor who sends the correct photographer and the correct reporter to that specific game, there IS a chance that it will not be covered..and thus not disseminated into the public as it should be. There are parents and children who read these stories throughout their high school career. This is one specific example of our culture that cannot be denied. The idea that a blogger would just happen to be at every single Class 5A basketball game..and feel motivated to drive to the game, keep correct and accurate statistics (rebounds,assists,points,turnovers,fouls,score by quarter,timeouts,free throws),interview several players and coaches with a voice recorder, and then fill in box scores and write a story is almost funny. There is not nearly enough motivation in our society for journalism to not have any sort of order. This is why there are still journalism schools. I have always known enough about basketball (blogger interested in sports) but until I got an education at this school regarding the interview process and statistic keeping while taking notes, and made connections through this school, I would not have been able to produce the content that I have had published. I graduate in May and have gotten a wonderful education from the University of Colorado. I have only had one class at this school that wasn’t worth my time and it was not a journalism class. I have gotten paid jobs and internships as well as studied overseas because of the journalism school and the University of Colorado.
    These connections and understanding of order and structure are something that an un-monitored information system lacks. It’s what separates a sports writer from a sports fan. Sure, everyone can write. But journalism is more than writing. It’s an order. It’s a process. It’s a system. It’s a structure of hierarchy that has an owner, publisher, editor, reporter, etc. These positions are there not so people are able to write information, but so all of the information that needs to be covered, and covered in the right time and with the right accuracy, is covered. It’s undeniable. I feel like bloggers (using the term VERY broadly), may understand how to disseminate news but without structured study, exams, and professional experience..the understanding of why it happens the right way is missing. That’s what I’ve paid for here at CU-Boulder and feel very confident heading into the job market come May.
    To Dave: Thank you for coming. Your insight is interesting for sure. I think the blogging world is very interesting but to sum it up through a sports lens, I would rather watch ESPN than Denver Stiffs, and always will.
    Peter Buffington

  32. Dave,
    as an outsider looking in, I’d have to agree with the observations made by many of the CU faculty/students who have chimed in. You DID make sweeping assertions and claims about the students, the school and the campus. And rather than explore – with sincerity – the issue of journalism and new media, you resort to the tried and true stereotyped bashing of Boulder that may be easier to do than spend some extra time developing thoughtful commentary. If you are truly interested in commentary and discussion, as you suggest, why not approach your post and the issue of journalism and the new media as one of a question? You come across as pedantic and defensive… it’s a shame, because the discussion that we could have been having about journalism and the new media is important and timely.
    Oh… and if you were a journalist, you probably wouldn’t make as many grammatical errors in your writing as you do! If you use the muscle every day, at least use it correctly 😉

  33. @ken posts: “Using Seldon’s psychohistory model, it’s clear…”
    Dude, did you SERIOUSLY just cite a fictional character as if he had real-world, scientific authority? Isaac Asimov would be so ashamed.
    And Dave: To paraphrase another fictional character, “You keep using the King Canute metaphor. I do not think it means what you think it does.”
    King Canute was well aware he couldn’t stop the tide. He made the attempt in order to reveal his underlings for the brown-nosers that they were.

  34. Louisa, really? We’re going to talk about grammar?
    Carny, yeah, I get the point of what Canute was doing, but I believe it also makes the point I’m demonstrating too. It’s cool if you don’t see it or disagree: that’s what makes online writing and blogging so much more lively (as demonstrated in this discussion!) than print media.

  35. Dave:
    Congratulations for generating a lively, if frequently defensive, discussion about old-fashioned journalism schools, aspiring writers who don’t write, and smarty-pants bloggers who feel called to contribute to the Internet din.
    I’ve enjoyed reading it all, especially the j-school kids in that class taught by my good friend and nephew, Dr. Dean Colby. And, in the interest of further disclosure, I confess to a career in small-market journals in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and California.
    I retired as quickly as I could, partly because I couldn’t figure out any more effectively than those “dinosaurs” you mention just how newspapers were going to generate those wonderfully handsome margins in the quickly evolving world of modern media. Personally, I wasn’t much interested in commanding the sea to change in ways suitable to my newspapers’ monopolistic ways, but I did, and do, think that a commitment to local news presented fairly and accurately would continue to make a reasonable return on investment. I still have faith in the idea.
    Unlike many newspaper people, I didn’t set out to work between those grimy walls. I had loftier aspirations, but newspapers were at hand, and my initial exposure to the newsroom, ad department, and inky press rooms encouraged me. There were a couple of brainy people in the newsroom who wrote like Hemingway, and there was history and tradition in the back shop, where I discovered I was in the company of Garamond, Franklin and Zenger.
    After a few years in the business, Woodward and Bernstein brought the paranoid Nixon presidency to its knees, and suddenly j-schools across the country were teeming with idealistic young people who smelled an opportunity to get paid while doing good. I was reassured that I had embarked on a noble profession.
    With my contemporaries in the newspaper business, I embraced ideals of fair play, balance and accuracy. We knew in our hearts that our newspapers sometimes failed miserably, and we knew also that we sometimes succeeded admirably. We had our little run with “advocacy journalism” after the Watergate affair, but when the great Washington Post had to return a Pulitzer prize for Janet Cooke’s fabricated story, we generally sobered up and came back to earth.
    Back to earth … where we continued our fateful kinship with the likes of railroad moguls and harness makers. Damn, we loved those margins! The power! The smell of ink! The presence in the balcony as the venerable Fourth Estate! Our special place in Constitutional law! Our own Amendment, for God’s sake, and the First One at that! Congress shall make no law, etc., etc.
    Well and good, but when I got the chance to run the newsroom job, I encountered my own comeuppance. Once I figured out that I needed smart and curious people if my newspaper hoped to publish timely and accurate stories about my community, I knuckled down and fished for the best. I can’t tell you how many entry-level reporters I interviewed with dismay. J-school apparently had filled them with heady ideas about freedom of the press, but they couldn’t write, spell or get their verbs to agree with their nouns. Many were long on talking and short on listening. How’s this supposed to work?
    Later, as publisher, I had bigger challenges. The owners had debt to retire and they dreamed of the good old days when 40% margins were ordinary, and they rarely missed an opportunity to remind us that they “used to do” better. I thought I might learn something at the press conventions, but I was discouraged. At those rubber-chicken events at expensive hotels, we spent more time patting ourselves on the back than we did figuring out how to survive. Everyone we talked to thought newspapers were too important to fail! Too bad we talked mostly to ourselves.
    What we newspaper people had on our hands were owners who loved their powerful monopolies and journalists who blithely used “freedom of the press” to detach themselves from the communities they were supposed to cover. Meanwhile, ad departments raised rates and circulation departments defended decreasing penetration. When pressure mounted, we just hid. For many moribund newspaper people, the greatest technological advancement so far is those new telephone systems that make it impossible for a reader, subscriber or news source to get to us.
    There was some precedent for fear, more for arrogance. Radio was the first technological threat that was going to undo us. It didn’t. Television would, too; it didn’t either. And the Information Superhighway? Naw – won’t happen.
    To our the industry’s credit, there were prophets. In 1991 or so, my publisher friend Jeff Ackerman, warned a group of fellow newspaper publishers that this new thing called the Internet was a major threat. Right, Jeff. Turning to ad rates …
    Roger Fidler, residing here in Boulder and working for the large newspaper group Knight-Ridder, predicted way back in the mid-1980s that we all would one day be reading news on slim electronic tablets that could display colorful news pages, complete with ads. Last week, Apple introduced its iPad; it apparently does just that. I can’t wait to get mine.
    Such is my background and perspective, which I offer as humble credential for making these comments on your blog and its several commentators:
    First, if you mean to suggest that aspiring writers should write more frequently, if not every single day, then I say “amen, brother.” I’ve enjoyed the blogs I’ve set up (and taken down), and I’ve been happy for the experience. I need to read your book and learn how to make a killing in the process. It seems worth mentioning, though, that you might inadvertently be encouraging diaries without drawers. I’m not convinced that tossing one’s “Dear Diary” entries in the back alleys of the World Wide Web Super—-ing Highway is of any beneficial consequence to anyone. Some things just aren’t quite ready for public, uh hem, consumption.
    Secondly, if you mean to say that j-schools in general and CU’s in particular are archaic and out of touch, I think you’ll need to support that. CU’s school is currently entertaining some changes that would be a significant step toward interweaving new technologies with old reporting techniques. What’s more, this school and others haven’t exactly been sleeping. My friend Dr. Colby, just to cite one pertinent example, depends on the Internet and all its trappings for his livelihood and continuing education. He might be hard to best in that regard, and I’m sure you meant not to suggest that he isn’t near the top of his game. Most ordinary people these days are getting very good at understanding how to get good information from Internet sources; why would you think j-school intellects would be neophytes, or even less likely, Luddites?
    Lastly, I wonder where in this discussion should be the concept of editing. It was my opinion that good reporters were important if you hoped to have a good newspaper, but great editors were absolutely essential if you hoped to kick the endeavor up a notch or two. Unedited crap – and I think the Internet is full of that – is a waste of time. Dr. Colby’s correct: Good content takes hard work, time, money and a good head.
    Best regards,
    Ron Stewart
    Boulder, CO

  36. Aww, poor journalism students they don’t do this blogging thing; blogging could really do them a great help, that is to enhance there abilities in writing and they could think more of objectives. Besides, not because they’re gonna do blogging means it’s going the end the essence of journalism. But it was so brave of you to share your thoughts with them.

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