Digital narratives might not be as digital after all

Published on by Astrid Ildor (author)

The afternoon parallel panel, TA9, was a series of presentations ping-ponging between obstacles and possible solutions for future journalism education - from the lack of participatory journalism courses to computational thinking.

The journalism schools can do much better when it comes to teach the students the paramount task of engaging the audience. Bella Palomo and Maria Sánchez from the University of Malaga, Spain started the afternoon panel session by presenting their investigations on how Spanish schools are teaching participatory journalism. Together they have analysed 39 journalism degrees from 2013 – 2015 and their results shows that there is room for improvements. Only half of the investigated universities are covering topics related to participatory journalism in a significant way, and the courses are often first a topic on the last year of the education.
However there is an urgent need to teach the digital narrative students how to use participatory journalism especially with focus on ethics on social media. Even though the students see themselves as experts due to their great networks on social media, they lack competences and knowledge about the conventions of the digital platforms. For instance there has been a 80 percent increase in cases of plagiarism simply because the young journalists do not know the rules.
“We must take care of future journalists and explain them that a bad use of social media has great and bad consequences,” Bella Palomo from the University of Malaga concludes.

She was followed up by Mohanmeet Khosla from Panjab University, India who had some interesting perspectives on how to rethink journalism education. One of her key points was that there is a need to drive students towards obsession, and instead of judging good journalism from bad or profit journalism from high educated journalism the focus should be on how to train students to become participants in the media world. As long as it is a good story the story needs to be told. Instead the focus should be on enable the student to make his story sustainable – how does he keep on updating the story?

A concrete approach on how to do this by using computational thinking was presented by Radu Meza from Babes-Bolyai Univeristy. He has been investigating the question on how to encourage journalist students to become more than digital users without turning them into it programmers. He suggests that using open source platforms to present schoolwork is a way for students to gain ownership to the different platforms. The focus should be on teaching the students to define a specific problem and get the computer to solve the problems in a hands on way that train the future journalists to take advantage of automation in data collection, information visualization, content aggregation and distribution. This way the computer should be turned into a personalized tool in presenting the journalism making visualisations and mashups. 

Hands-on is exactly what Pau Rumbo from the University of Pompeu Fabra, Spain have had. He was presenting his end-of-degree evaluation project on the central course “Integrated Journalism Workshop” of the Bachelor’s degree at Barcelona’s Pompeu Fabra. Pau Rumbo has himself attended the course, which is a nine month course set up in special designed spaces for radio-, tv-, writing- and digital journalism. The aim of the course was to integrate the student’s work and the different media types. Over all the students had been very motivated and positive about the course especially due to the fact that it was devoted by more hours both from the students and the teachers. However the integration did not take place in a satisfying way – especially because of technological reasons. To improve that the participating students were asking for integrating the internet in the three other sessions instead of having it as a separate part.

All four panellists were talking about the ‘digital narrative student’ but like most other digital narrative graduates Pau Rumbo has chosen to work for a traditional media.

“Even though I am a digital native, I do not feel that I am expert enough to really work with it,” Pau Rumbo said by the end of the final discussion and put the entire parallel panel into an interesting perspective. 

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