Online Journalism: Where do we go from here?

Seven suggestions for what to do after the semester ends.

1. Expand your “news diet.”

The best thing a journalism student can do is to read/listen/watch a lot of news. Seek out organizations, networks, and publications that you don’t already read. Load up your iPod with news podcasts. Use social networking. Subscribe to a newspaper. Watch documentary films. Add some new news apps to your phone. Read some of the classics of journalism (see NYU’s list of Top 100 Works of Journalism) Follow the award winners. The Pulitzer’s, the Online Journalism Awards, the National Magazine Awards, the National Press Photographer Awards are a great way to keep up with the best journalism.

Seek out the best stuff. Make it part of your regular routine.

2. Build an expertise

This course is designed as an introduction to a range of skills, not as a place to develop an expertise. I encourage you to take more courses in the areas that interest you (ie Radio Documentary, Web Design, On-Camera Field Reporting, Photojournalism, or Online Journalism 2). In addition, continue to work on your reporting and writing skills.

Someone smarter than me said the following; “When it comes to multimedia (text, audio, photos, video, graphics, computer programming) journalism students 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.”

Online Journalism I focuses on entry-level applications and technology. Keep working with it, and then graduate to more sophisticated programs. If you aren’t getting what you need in your courses, explore other options like the Knight Digital Media Center News University, or Lynda.com.

3. Continue to expand your multimedia journalism skill set.

A few years ago, Mark Luckie wrote a blog post called 30 Things Journalism Grads Should Do this Summer. It’s a little dated, but in many ways still a great list. Take an inventory of where you are, then come up with a plan to continue hitting some of these benchmarks.

4. Start or join another publication.

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, and video. You have written a lot of words and sentences. Hopefully you are becoming a better writer in the process.

But one of the main goals of this course is to gain experience creating a publication, creating content, and building an audience. That is what every publication has to do. Even established news outlet are constantly creating new sections, features, or ways to engage readers.

But don’t wait until you get a job. Start now. Participate in a publication that excites you.

-Start a new online publication or blog.
-Join The Whit or RTN or Rowan Radio.
-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.

5. Find a mentor.

Keep an eye out for a professor, an internship supervisor, an older friend, an editor who can help you. Learn as much as you can from them.

6. Create an online portfolio of your work.

Google your name. Think about what you can do to shape the search results. Check out the portfolios of Rowan students or recent grads. For example:
http://www.linkedin.com/in/stacyannj
http://afoodcoma.com/theintern/
http://matboyle.com/
http://codychrusciel.net/main.htm
http://www.heelsandwheelsonline.com/

Start building your own.

Tips:
-Keep your design clean.
-Emphasize quality, not quantity.
-Provide simple, clear navigation.
-No typos misspellings, typos, or grammatical errors.
-Think “first impression.”
-Think web. Visual and easy to skim. Provide links to more information.
-Your lead sells your clip (and it will probably be the only part that an editor reads).
-Embeds and links are better than downloads.
-Don’t make visitor work to figure out how you are and what you can do.
-For multimedia (text, audio, photo, video, graphics), demonstrate a broad knowledge and versatility, but also an expertise.
-Make it easy for people to contact you, but difficult to spam you.
-Update your content regularly.
-Pick a web host or platform that you can upgrade.
-Show it to others and ask them to give you feedback.
-Keep updating your portfolio even after you land a job.

7. Find your own pathway.

Some of you are not journalism majors or may never work in the news industry. That’s great. Follow your passion. Do what you love.

Whatever you do, chances are good that the journalism skills you pick up will be of use. The web has made everyone a content creator. If you are running a small business, working at a large corporation, running a non-profit organization, or even teaching kindergarten, chances are you will be involved in creating online content for your specific audience.

Some of you will work as journalists. And the future of journalism will look much different than the past.

I believe that people will continue to want and need accurate, insightful and compelling information about the world around us. But it does seem that the old rules of publishing and news have changed. Who provides this information, how it is gathered, and how it gets funded will continue to evolve.

But you are not responsible for the future of journalism. You only have to find your own path.

Today, former students are working in a range of journalism jobs – from traditional reporter to independent blogger to social media editor. In five years, there will be jobs we haven’t thought of yet.

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