Online Journalism: Where Do We Go from Here?

You are almost done. But your work is just beginning…

The following is a fictional conversation with an imaginary Online Journalism I student. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. However, if do you find something helpful, that’s great.

“I’m happy with what I’ve done, but I don’t want to continue my blog.”

Great. Write a final farewell post (Post #20) letting your readers know you are done – or are at least taking a break for a while. Link to some of your best posts so they can see your “greatest hits.”

You can leave your blog where it is. You can link to it or to specific posts that you are particularly proud of for internship and job applications.

“I don’t like my blog. I’m done with it. I don’t want anyone to see it.”

That’s fine. Really. Education isn’t about doing everything perfect the first time. It is about trying something new and learning from the process.

But DO NOT DELETE your blog right now. It has all of your work for the semester. Many things could happen in the coming weeks. My computer could crash. I could lose my grade book. The school could lose your grade. You could decide to challenge your grade. Or you may change your mind and decide to pick up you blog again. So don’t delete it.

Please make sure it stays public until May 16. After that, you can password protect it – meaning only you or other people who have the password can see it. For instructions, see the instructions for Setting Your Blog to Private.

After you have received your official grade from the university, you can delete it. Here are instructions for how to delete your blog. If you delete a blog you will not be able to get it back.

So don’t delete it until you get your official grade and are absolutely sure you want to eliminate your blog.

“I love my blog. I want to continue it.”

Good. Write your final post for the class (Post #20) letting your readers you are going to continue. Link to some of your best posts so they can see your “greatest hits.” Then go for it. Give yourself assignments. Nurture your audience. Make your blog what you want it to be.

“I might continue my blog. I might start a new one someday. But either way I’m ready to move beyond”

Fine. You have options.

Experiment with other platforms.

You can purchase a Word Press upgrade starting at $15 a year. There are various options to fit different needs – domain names, more space, upload audio and video directly, etc. Carefully research them before you spend the money.

Or I suggest you move your blog to your own Web host (costs about $5 to $7 a month) and use — that’s .ORG — which is different from

What’s the difference between and

So if you are interested, visit which has a lot of tutorials. I also recommend a great resource for learning how to build a Web site using

“I’m not sure what I want to do.”

Fine. Follow the instructions from the first statement above.

“I discovered I really like audio (or HTML or video or photography or audio slide shows).”

Great. This course is designed as to introduce you to a lot of things, not to make you really great at any of them. So take a Radio Documentary class (or Web Design, On-Camera Field reporting, Photojournalism, or Online Journalism 2).

When it comes to multimedia (text, audio, photos, video, graphics) you should know a little about everything and strive to be really good at two of these formats. One of the two things has to be writing.

“I really don’t like technology. I just want to be a writer.”

I don’t like technology either.

However, technology is – and always has been – part of writing and publishing. It’s useful to know enough so that you can write and publish what you want. Unless you only want to write for yourself… and that is fine too. Writing doesn’t have to be a job.

“Wait. Isn’t there more to online journalism than blogging?”

Of course. And you have learned more than just blogging this semester. You have been introduced to many of the main concepts and formats of online journalism – ie HTML/CSS, writing for the web, social networking, aggregation, linking, slide shows, maps, audio, timelines, maps, live blogging, data visualization, and video.

And you have gained experience in creating a publication from scratch and trying to get people to read it, which is what every publication has to do.

You have written a lot of words and sentences. And hopefully you are becoming a better writer in the process.

“Won’t many of the things we have learned this semester be obsolete in a few years?”

Yes. So you have to keep educating yourself.

People who have been journalists for years are going back to school to learn what you have learned. See MediaBistro’s courses:
Writing and Editing for the Web
Intro to Multimedia Journalism

And you will need to keep educating yourself in new technologies and publishing platforms.

“Keep educating myself? I thought that is why I’m going to college and paying tuition. If I wanted to educate myself I would read books and spend all of my tuition money traveling around the world.”

Fair enough. Sounds like a great idea, actually.

Education and school are not the same thing. Hopefully education continues long after you finish school.

So here are my suggestions for expanding your horizons in journalism outside of the classroom.

1. Expand your “news diet.” Seek out organizations, networks, and publications that you don’t already read. Make them part of your regular routine.

2. Read the classics of journalism. NYU’s list of Top 100 Works of Journalism and Top Ten Works of Journalism from 2000-2009

3. Teach yourself some new skills with tutorials from sites like Knight Digital Media Center and News University.

And here is the secret to all technology. If you don’t know how to do something, Google it. Someone else has already learned how to do the same thing and has written about it.

4. Get advice from people in the field. Read their blogs and follow their lead. For example, Mark Luckie of 10, has written posts like:
Journalism Grads: 30 Things You Should Do This Summer
How to make the most of your journalism internship

5. Create an online portfolio. See some good examples.

6. Find a mentor. A professor, an internship supervisor, an older friend, an editor. Learn as much as you can from them.

7. Participate in something that excites you.

-Start a new online publication or blog.

-Join The Whit or RTN or Rowan Radio.

-Write for your church newsletter.

-Volunteer at a small publication. Stuff envelopes.

-Join a Flickr photo group.

-Participate in a video project, group, festival or contest on Vimeo.

-Host an online radio talk show like the Chicken Whisperer.

-Find people with a shared interest and launch a glossy magazine using Magcloud.

-Self publish your book with Lulu or Blurb and sell them or give them away.

The key is to participate.

“I’ve decided to change my major.”

Good for you. Follow your passion. I wish you the best.

“Five minutes after the last class I will forget all about you and everything you’ve said.”

True. You will. To tell you the truth, I can’t remember much from college either. I can’t even remember attending most of my classes or the names of most of my professors.

But I do remember many of the people I interviewed as a journalism student and as a journalist. I hope you will remember the people you interviewed and the stories you helped to tell.

“What does online journalism have to do with me?”

Online journalism is a process, not a product. It is interactive, participatory, and collaborative. So interact. Participate. Collaborate. Start now. Don’t wait until you graduate or get a job.

Online journalism is not just about new media skills. It is a mindset. It is the ability to think outside of traditional boundaries. It is a recognition that the old rules of publishing and news have changed. Your generation, not mine, will decide the future of journalism.

“Do I have what it takes to be a journalist?”

Are you curious about other people and the world around you?

Do you think stories matter?

Do you want to learn how to tell those stories in the best way possible?

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