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Keeping abreast of 21st century journalism skills

20/07/2011 04:07

So much is changing so rapidly in the journalism world. It’s like a moving train – you either get on board, or it not only leaves you behind, it might crush you. The changes are taking place at a pace that, put bluntly, many journalists who have stayed put with what they learnt about a decade ago, are gradually becoming redundant.


Attending the series of hands-on training sessions on computer-assisted reporting, convergence journalism, and multimedia reporting, at the University of Missouri, was therefore, a step in the right direction. The university not only houses the first School of Journalism in the world, it also plays host to the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting, the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, and the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) headquarters.


“There is a growing demand for journalists who are versed in computer-assisted reporting,” IRE’s executive editor, Mark Horvit said. “It improves credibility and efficiency in reporting, and allows reader and viewer participation with searchable data and interactive maps.”


For the uninitiated, computer-assisted reporting, sounds like a one-way approach to reporting, since after all, journalists use computers for their day-to-day activities, including searching for information. But, really, with the emergence of the “deep web” like www.pipl.com, the explosion of Web-based tools, like www.batchgeo.com, www.wordle.net and www.many-eyes.com, and the incorporation of spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel into daily reporting and data analysis, computer-assisted reporting is fast evolving as a special field of reporting.


Generally, computer-assisted reporting tools include spreadsheets, databases, statistical software, mapping software, social network analysis and Web-based tools.


In her presentation, Jaimie Dowdell, IRE training director, demonstrated the use of NodeXL as a good tool for social networking analysis, and for finding connections between people.


“Social networking analysis is not social media,” she said. “It provides a new way to look at the same old stories, analyze and visualize relationships, while filtering data in a more clear form.”


The hands-on training session on multimedia and convergence journalism was equally empowering. Reuben Stern, the Futures Lab Print and Graphics Editor at the university, described convergence journalism, as a very important aspect of journalism in this day and age. 


“Readers are becoming more interested in multimedia content,” he said. “So there is a need to come up with more ways to tell the story.”


The session involved the use of digital SLR camera to take still photographs, which in combination with audio, recorded using a digital audio recorder, was used to make audio-slideshows. Stern provided insight into the use of Final Cut Express for video editing, while also shedding light on video sequencing.


But, what is journalism without trust? The question becomes poignant, when one considers the fact that the phone hacking scandal that finally ended the 168-year existence of the News of the World, owned by Rupert Murdoch, was exposed just about the time of having the training session at the university. 


Perhaps, if Murdoch and his team of journalists at the News of the World had had the same opportunity like me, to listen to Michael Grinfeld, assistant professor, it would have been a different story.


“Trust is hard to build, easy to destroy, and even harder to rebuild,” Grinfeld said.


According to a report on the phone hacking scandal published in TIME, “four out of five Britons no longer trust the press.”


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