Friday, August 04, 2006

Training backpack journalists

A good friend of mine is starting the Masters program at Medill this fall, and I've been advising him through the process. The other day he wrote me an email about some items that the school is asking them to pick up before they start classes. Here's what he wrote:
I received a ridiculous letter with my acceptance package that says I need to buy an IBM laptop (or a new Mac with a bigger screen), a ton of software, a video camera and a video iPod.
He was somewhat incredulous about the list -- he's on the print track, mind you -- mostly because of the cost, which is daunting. I looked around the Medill Web site and didn't see anything about this, but I suspect it has something to do with the complete overhaul of the program that seams to have taken place since we left.

On the one hand, with that kind of gear, it sounds like they'll get to do some pretty cool hands-on stuff that we never got to do. If they're breaking down the barriers between print, magazine, new media, and broadcast, I'd say that makes a lot of sense too, since it seems like we'll be a lot less pigeonholed by those classifications than the previous generation of journalists was. It also reminds me of the slide from Rich Gordon's new media presentation about the "backpack journalist" who can operate as a print/broadcast/new media journalist using the equipment he carries with him. I suppose that as long as these skills are marketable, it's a good thing.

Another thing. Hearing about all these changes makes me realize that we had the bad luck (or maybe the good fortune) to go to grad school at the last possible point when a "classic" old-school journalism education was available, but maybe we got the best of both worlds in straddling the old and the new.


At 2:32 PM, Blogger Frosty said...

Dear Max -- Nice post -- but what are you doing up at 5 a.m.?

At 10:58 AM, Blogger Sara said...

If this is part of the overhaul of the J-school, I support it. Especially since I was gathering that much of the anxiety over the changes stemmed from some blurring of the lines between the J-school and the marketing side, which I guess I still wonder about.

Sure, at first it might seem like a bummer to have to buy all that when really print reporters should just need a notebook and a pen, right?

But I wish we had more blending of mediums, and I am realizing more and more how much that would have - or will in the near future - benefit me. I don't think we can rely on the traditional skills or the traditional old-school training anymore, and that sure makes a stronger case for returning to grad school and shelling out a ton of money to prepare us for the changing field.

At 10:59 AM, Blogger Sara said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 6:13 PM, Blogger CK said...

I agree with the need to incorporate other journalism methods into the curriculum. If anything, I've seen how much my paper is in desperate need itself to catch up with the technology being used now, and I hate, hate that I don't know enough about it to make as big a difference.

However...I just don't want it to be at the expense of the nitty-gritty journalism skills you need to be not only a good writer, but a good reporter. It's one of the reasons I've never really been a huge fan of using a tape recorder on assignment -- I just am not comfortable enough that I'm paying close enough attention to what the person's saying, how he's acting, etc. I'm very old school in that regard, at the bare minimum of being a reporter -- I'm just a little too paranoid of relying on technology in that situation. That being said...grasping how and why Internet-based skills are important in our field is something that should not only be encouraged at arguably the best J school in the nation, but required.

At 2:04 PM, Blogger Davique said...

Oh wow, I heard about this at graduation, Sharon Kornely was telling me about it. But she said that the school was supplying the ipods etc. I was incensed! Where's my ipod, I demanded. Why can't this guy just use the laptop he has now? Probably because it sux, and he should get a new laptop anyway. No sympathy. Not really clear on why they need the ipods though...podcasts? You don't need an ipod to make one...


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