Understanding technology for journalism competence

Creative Commons photo from Flickr user BRAYDAWG
By Katy Mersmann

When I was in Washington this semester, I was fortunate enough to attend the National Press Foundation awards dinner with my fellow Mizzou journalism students. Wolf Blitzer was honored at the ceremony for a lifetime of dedication to journalism. During his remarks, he told an anecdote about learning to type with both hands at the same time while he was working for Reuters. My entire table of students was aghast. Blitzer was hired by a big, successful news agency without even basic typing skills. Today, that's pretty hard to imagine. 

I share this anecdote as an example of the rapid changes in journalism technology. I was reading Poynter's newly released, updated Pyramid of Journalism Competence. The pyramid was originally created in 1998 for a forum Poynter hosted for the Committee for Concerned Journalists and offered guidance to journalists about what they needed to know.

The updated pyramid has some new building blocks and some that have remained the same, including the "technology." For journalists, an understanding and ability to use the technology related to reporting and producing is crucial. Roy Peter Clark, vice president of Poynter, headed the team that created the original pyramid, and he said the importance of understanding technology cannot be understated.

"The competent journalist must be prepared to work successfully in a variety of media platforms, from print to video to digital to mobile – including forms that have not yet been invented," he wrote.

But Clark also wrote about technologic-literacy as it doesn't directly relate to journalism. In fact, he said it is just as important that journalists understand not just how to use technology, but how it can impact society. 

"What is called for here is neither technophilia nor phobia, but a techno-realism that recognizes the gains and compensates for the losses brought by new technologies," he wrote.

So back to Wolf Blitzer and learning to type with both hands. When Blitzer was working at Reuters in the '70s, quite a lot of people didn't type anything regularly. In fact, according to the United States Census Bureau, even in 1984, only 8.2 percent of American households had a computer. In the 2011 census, 75.6 percent of Americans had a computer in their home. 

That's not technology changing just for journalists. The ability to type and owning personal computers have significantly changed the way people do everything from communicating to shopping. An entirely new way of reporting news has arisen with the changing face of technology, and Clark said journalists need to be prepared for it. 

This year, ONA Mizzou hopes to offer classes and opportunities for student journalists to hone their technology skills and knowledge. I know I'm excited to learn more about the convergence of technology and journalism. 

And if you're really interested in technology, journalism and society, Clyde Bentley's class Emerging Technologies in Journalism (JOURN 4462) provides great new perspectives about the intersections of new technology and how they impact the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment