My first "recommended" text for the fall semester has arrived, without killing a single tree, and for free: Journalism
2.0: How to Survive and Thrive, subtitled A digital literacy guide for the information age.
A print edition is available, but I won't ask anyone to spend even the very reasonable $10 until I'm finished reading... The full text is online as a 132-page pdf file (download from Knight Citizen's News Network at J-Lab -- a 2 MB file).
Here's author Mark Briggs's key message for journalism students...
There's never been a better time to be a journalist. That's pretty close to my own speech at the beginning of every intro class for the past eight years, although I dodge absolutes like "never been a better time..." There have been other exciting times, including times when journalists earned more respect, but that's something we're working on, too. And maybe some of that respect can come from mastering new "Web 2.0" tools mentioned in this book... skills that can put journalists in closer touch with their communities through the two-way Web.
That might sound odd considering how many newspaper journalists lost their jobs since 2000 (3,000), but there has never been a time that offered so many powerful ways to tell stories and serve readers with information.
For more of Mark's introduction, see this Web page version. Web-linked versions of other chapters are coming, but the less-interactive PDF version is online already.
Disclaimer: The author and I both went to grad school at UNC Chapel Hill... and the foreword to his book is by one of my favorite professors there, Phil Meyer... author of (among other things) the first book I saw mention using computers in journalism, about 30 years ago.
Journalists, Phil points out, need to know "how to keep on learning and revising the craft throughout their careers," and that's what this book is about. It could be titled "Things journalism school didn't teach you, if you went before the year 2000, and maybe later." In fact, it might be titled "Things your journalism school professors didn't learn yet..."
Phil also mentions that he learned his basic 20th-century journalism skills in high school: "Touch typing, writing a simple declarative sentence, respect for scientific method and the Bill of Rights." I plan to ask my fall 2007 students how much of the content of this book they've already picked up online.
Next questions: Is it my job to go back and teach the things Phil learned in high school? To help students focus on research methods, multimedia specialties and versatility? To emphasize the basics of communication theory applied to... whatever comes down the pike next?
Before the semester starts, I'd better go read the book... and a couple of others...
(The fine print on those pages will tell you that the "KCNN" behind this book is "an initiative of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism, a center of the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.")