From talking about it to just doing it


When I first started teaching a course called Reinventing the News a few years ago, I envisioned it mainly as a seminar. The idea was that we would look at some case studies of where the news business might be headed and blog about it.

I quickly realized that wasn’t good enough. The spark for me was a student who had just come back from her co-op job at the Patriot Ledger of Quincy. She had assumed the most complicated tool she’d have to use would be a notebook. Instead, she was tossed a point-and-shoot digital camera and told to teach herself how to capture and edit video. She liked it so much she ended up changing her career goals from print to video.

It was with some trepidation that I began adding three weeks of Web video to Reinventing a year and a half ago. First, I had to teach myself how to do it. And it required exposing some vulnerabilities. I knew some students would be starting from zero, but I also knew that others were already better at video journalism than I’d ever be. Nevertheless, it proved to be well worth it.

Last week we finished the most complex version of Reinventing I’ve offered, and my students had to pull together a variety of skills for their final project. The assignment was to use free online tools to create a multimedia story. The elements:

  • An 800- to 1,000-word story about a digital media project that had caught their eye, written up as a blog post with relevant links.
  • A slide show of six to 10 still photos, posted to Flickr and embedded in their blog.
  • A two- to five-minute video they shot and edited, posted to YouTube and also embedded in their blog.
  • An explanation of how they used social networks such as Twitter and Facebook to find sources and report their story.

At the end of it all, they were asked to note the location of their story on a Google map and link to their blog post. The result is the map I’ve embedded above. I invite you to explore. These young journalists did a terrific job, and I am very proud of them.

If you click on “View Reinventing the News: Final Projects in a larger map,” directly under the embedded map, you’ll find the list of students on the left-hand side. Click on a name to find his or her spot on the map, each one of which is linked directly to their project. Hmmm … Google could make this a little bit simpler, eh?

I’ll be teaching Reinventing again this fall, and I will continue to refine. My first thought is that I ought to dump the brief wiki exercise I offer and instead delve more deeply into how to handle comments. Any thoughts you have would be welcome.

7 thoughts on “From talking about it to just doing it

  1. This is great! glad to see that you expanded the class out to include the various multi-media ways a story can be reported. This reminds me when I took a high school journalism class and the teacher asked us to design a page for an Easter supplement. Unfortunately, she didn’t discuss with us anything about graphics or how to do a page layout. It would have been most helpful if she did (and would have made me less skittish about my lack of artistic skills.) As long as you are discussing these new forms of reporting with the class, and helping them along with it, it becomes a great way for them to get acquainted with the exact type of stuff they will probably be asked to do once they leave college.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @Tish: You are quoted in two of the stories. As always, thanks for your willingness to help young journalists learn about social media.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @Steve: If you click through to the larger map, the students are all listed in the left-hand column. Their spots on the map all link directly to their final projects. Hmmm … think I’ll add that to the post.

  2. Mary DeChillo

    Dan, what a great assignment to give to the students. You are to be commended as being a “life long learner” yourself in deciding to upgrade your course and learn new techniques yourself. It is real easy in academia to keep doing the same thing but you challenged yourself–a great example of being a role model for students. Your enthusiasm was catchy.

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