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Here’s a goldmine of journalism teaching ideas from the 4th World Journalism Education Congress. Thanks David Baines!

It is a treasure house of ideas and innovation and a terrific opportunity to hear what other people are developing and experimenting with in journalism education.

By David Baines

I am speaking about the World Journalism Education Congress which takes place every three years. The last one was in Auckland, New Zealand, last summer and the next one will be in Paris in July 2019. (I look forward to seeing many of you there.)

The paper and panel sessions, the plenaries and keynotes are very valuable, but it is in the syndicates, small themed discussion groups where people with a particular field of interest and expertise focus on critical issues in the field, that things really start to buzz.  And these are a particularly innovative feature of the WJEC.

The syndicate on Teaching Journalism for Mobile Platforms at WJEC 4 in Auckland, New Zealand last year was chaired by Agnes Gulyas of Canterbury Christ Church University here in Britain, and Dannielle Mulrennan, of Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand delivered the expert report. I was rapporteur. And the question before us was: How do journalism educators revise curricula to effectively prepare students for the reality of mobile technology while maintaining the fundamentals of journalism education?

You can find a summary of our findings, and those of all the other syndicates, here:   http://test.imran.oucreate.com/uploads/5/5/8/9/55898927/syndicate_feedback_session_wjec_2016.pdf

The full reports from each syndicate will be posted this summer on this site: http://test.imran.oucreate.com/

But in our final session, several members of the syndicate shared their best assignments with the rest of the group.

There was no opportunity to feature these great ideas in the conference documentation, but their authors have all generously agreed to allow the AJE to share them with its members.

So, I offer our thanks and much appreciation to:

Mark Neuzil, of the University of St. Thomas, USA; Deb Wenger, of the University of Mississippi, USA; Peg Achterman of Seattle Pacific University, USA; Ann Luce, of Bournemouth University, UK and Danielle Mulrennan, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand.

And colleagues, if you do draw on these ideas, please contact the author and let him or her know that you have done so. They will all be delighted to know how their ideas and innovations are contributing to the development of journalism education in other parts of the world. You will find each author’s email address next to his or her name below

The scientific understanding

Mark Neuzil, University of St. Thomas, USA: MRNEUZIL@stthomas.edu  

Few journalists have a background in science, and few would-be journalists who come to our courses have studied science subjects at school. But never has it been more critically important for all of us to be scientifically literate. Environmental issues, climate change, energy, genetic modification, data privacy … to understand these things we need to be informed and informed about the science.  And Tim Ferris, in the forward to A Field Guide for Science Writers says: ‘We have …the best stories to tell – the most momentous, important and startlingly original stories you will find.’

Mark’s innovative approach to get his students writing those stories is to team them up with students studying conservation and biology at the University of St Thomas.

The course has a wiki and working in pairs, a conservation student and a journalism student, they contribute to it regularly, building it up semester after semester.

Minnesota has a harsh climate and a short growing season and the wiki focuses on urban agriculture. During the course the students have a set number of elements to complete and each one must include visual and video elements.


Working well – in the moment

Deb Wenger, Meek School of Journalism, University of Mississippi, USA: debora.wenger@gmail.com

Immediacy is increasingly demanded of journalists. But a problem that has long been recognised is that accuracy can sometimes be compromised by the need to report live as events unfold and the time available to analyse and contextualise is compressed. Deb helps her students to learn and practise the techniques of reporting in such circumstances but in a safe environment and with time devoted after the event to reflection on their practice and on the ethical issues to which the exercise gave rise. And the students undertake the reporting exclusively through mobile phones.

Deb gives her students a week to prepare for a 50-minute class in which they provide live-stream coverage of an event such as an election.  During this time they have to decide among themselves what role each will play, what preparatory tasks need to be completed and who will take responsibility for each of them.  For example, as the election approaches, someone has to keep a running check on the polls, on the critical issues that are emerging, on the candidates’ statements. Someone has to contact people and arrange for them to be available for live interviews on the day.

Then, on the day, everything has to be carefully planned. Each person has to complete their own tasks on time.

Back in the studio all the elements – video, quotes, pieces to camera, are sent in and the producer in the classroom uses that to pull coverage together.

As the studio team wait for the content to start coming in, they are creating additional context and content that can be used to fill the time and add analysis and clarification, such as Google maps of the electoral district so results can be presented in location.

Students in the field conduct their interviews, shoot their footage, grab a soundbite, and do a limited amount of editing on their mobile devices before filing the content to the studio.

They almost always use email. They have lots of options such as Google drive, Dropbox, alternative apps for editing and, Deb says:  ‘We talk about and work through what is available, but when time is pressured, they tend to use familiar stuff on their phones.’

Then the material starts to flow and everything goes live.

Assessment: there are a lot of things to be graded – but they do not need to be complicated. What did you set out to get? Were you able to get it – yes / no? What ethical issues arose? How did you address them? What technical issues arose, how did you address them? The analytics can be accessed. Who was watching it? Who was reading it? Where were they? The grade is a simple pass or fail. It is an assignment for 1st semester students in their first year on the programme.

But it helps them to understand real-time immediacy right at the beginning of their course. And it is consistently one of the students’ favourite assignments.


Sequence, narrative and planning an edit

Peg Achterman, Seattle Pacific University, USA: achterman@spu.edu

Teaching sequences can be one of the most difficult things, so this is very helpful as an exercise early in the student’s programme.

‘I use Vine, but I could use Snapchat – it is about developing an understanding of editing a sequence and what you are doing, and why, when you are editing.

Students are told they must tell a story in a sequenced shoot and with Vine you can shoot-stop-shoot-stop and it pulls it together for you. But students have to think through what tells a story. And the nice thing about Vine is they can hashtag the tutor and their work can be gathered up and put on the board.

It does not take long. We start with modelling sequence and narrative; an hour for shoots; then everyone comes back together and reviews the work.

For example: what happens when you wake up.

You hit the alarm? Before that? It went off – good. So how do we position a camera? Next? The shower. OK, but how did you get from the bed to the shower? How do you step that out?

You can work through this process with lots of situations. And, as you are setting out to a scene to file a report, you can start thinking: What’s my perfect scene? How am I going to sequence this to build the narrative, to tell the story?


And for openers: the complete package

Ann Luce, University Of Bournemouth, UK:   aluce@bournemouth.ac.uk

We have a policy of allowing only two assignments per module during the course of a semester. But, you can embed several elements in an assignment.

My best one incorporates all the potential skills that a student will deploy as a mobile journalist: Make an interactive magazine for an iPad or mobile phone.

It starts with everyone coming together to discuss stories and the flow, the narrative, for the magazine. There will be several stories and each will involve a two-minute video shot on a phone or camera. Adobe Premier Clip is free, DPS app-builder you have to buy. We use InDesign so students gain print skills and learn how to convert print to digital. They need to make buttons to jump to pages, scrolling text, slide shows and a 30-sec to 1-min audio segment. And they talk to each other a lot!

Are they taught InDesign before? No – they have a technical demonstrator. They have a crash course on InDesign during the first two weeks of the semester. Then they produce a layout on a double spread – everything is on a double spread. And when they bring in a story to class, they also have to design it in to the magazine.

It runs in the second semester of their first year and it can be intensive. But by their second year they have very strong technical skills and are used to working together. It is a great way to teach everything and it gets team work going.


Verification exercises

Danielle Mulrennan, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand: danni.mulrennan@aut.ac.nz

Verification practices within journalism practice have become important as user-generated content is increasingly being repurposed into news stories, and we are faced with the increasingly ubiquitous nature of “fake news”.

Together with my colleague Dr Helen Sissons, we introduced a tutorial supported by two interactive PDF booklets (“Web and Social” and “Images and Media”) that connected students with some simple online verification tools that could be applied within their journalism writing and their work outside of the University.

As a group, we discussed the principles of verification and the students shared situations they knew of, where weak verification practices had the media caught out.  We introduced a couple of exercises from the PDF booklets, and the students either worked simultaneously with us while we did the exercises on an over-head projector, or the more confident students worked on their own or selected another exercise to attempt themselves.

Afterwards, we went through each as a class, discussed their findings and anything insightful they learned during the exercise.  The feedback from the students has been that they find the exercises enjoyable and easy to do, and for some, it has sparked an interest to delve into deeper verification practices in their own time.

The booklets were designed after a survey of journalists in news organisations was conducted across New Zealand.  It interested us to learn how few practitioners were aware of the simplest tools and some of their functions, so we applied these findings to the design of the pdfs which were to be pitched at a fairly elementary level in comparison to existing resources, such as “The Verification Handbook” (http://verificationhandbook.com/) which is quite advanced.

We have also shared the PDFs with industry.

Download: Verifying Images and Media

Verifying Images and Media A5


Download: Verifying Web and Social

Verifying Web and Social A5


Final note

Thank you to all these colleagues for their generosity and collegiality in sharing these innovative and valuable approaches and the opportunities they offer to develop fresh understandings and abilities in our students.  Please remember, if you do decide to draw on these idea, drop the author a line to let him or her know.

Now – I am starting to think about how I am going to pull some of those ideas into our programmes here in Newcastle…