Back in February I blogged about the process of teaching journalism students to think about working with communities. The results have been positive: even where the strategy itself wasn’t successful, the individuals have learned from its execution, its research, or both. And so, for those who were part of this process – and anyone else who’s interested – I thought I would summarise 10 key themes that came through the resulting work.
1. A community strategy isn’t something you can execute effectively in one month
Perhaps the number one lesson that people drew from the experience was that they should have started early, and done little, often, rather than a lot all at once. There was a tendency to underestimate the needs of community management and a need for better time management.
Communities needed time to “grow organically”, wrote one; it wasn’t a top down approach. Members might also have felt they were being “manipulated” when weeks of inactivity were followed by a flood of posts, links and questions.
Some say that journalism students should simply be taught how to ‘do’ journalism rather than spending time analysing or reflecting on it. On Saturday Sky’s Kay Burley showed why it’s not that simple – when she berated someone demonstrating in favour of electoral reform (skip to around 2 mins in):
This, and the copious other clips from a career history of walking a fine line (many say crossing it), are a goldmine for lecturers and journalism students – particularly when it comes to discussing broadcast journalism technique, ethics, and regulation.
It helps students to look at their own journalistic practice and ask: in trying to please my bosses or meet an idea of what makes ‘good television’, am I crossing a line? How do the likes of Jeremy Paxman manage to dig behind a story without losing impartiality, or becoming the story themselves (do they manage it?) What, indeed, is the purpose of journalism, and how does that carry through into my practice?
Journalism is easy. You don’t need to study it for 3 years to do it. You don’t need a piece of paper to practise it.
But professional journalism is also the exercise of power – “Power without responsibility,” as the quote has it (which continues: “the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages”). We expect to scrutinise politicians and hold them to certain ethical standards yet cry foul when the same scrutiny is applied to us. Studying journalism – while doing it – should be about accepting that responsibility and thinking about what it entails. And then doing it better.
So: Kay Burley. Discuss.