Social Media as the ‘Sky Falling Moment’

8 Dec

Click, click, click. The sound of typewriters is long gone. Today, neither writers nor journalists use these machines. The only people interested in typewriters now are antique collectors. Taking a break and looking out of the window for a moment of inspiration is no longer a part of the writing process. One’s gaze used to focus on nature. Today’s social media world pulls our attention onto the floating screen with commercials, Twitter feeds and Facebook updates. Newspapers are converting into electronic versions, and today’s journalism and communication graduates are about to enter a very different, fast-paced media world.

To communicate, almost everyone uses email and a cell phone. Landlines and letters are uncommon. People today depend on electronic devices, especially in times of crisis, when information can be easily accessed. Social media has become the new trend for journalists. Many news organizations use Twitter to inform the public.

This major industry change reinforces the importance for new graduates to be familiar with social media when applying for jobs in journalism. Some graduates wonder: will traditional journalism slowly disappear, just as the old-fashioned typewriters? And if this is the case, what is it that students, companies and educational institutions can do to prepare candidates for the industry?

I decided to conduct numerous interviews with students to find what do they think. My first source is a student who just entered the workforce and for privacy reasons her full name will remain anonymous. Rose, a University of Washington journalism student, believes that there is a generational divide between media users. Rose, a wife and a mother of three, decided to pursue her passion for writing two years ago. In the beginning, Rose thought, she wasn’t going to take classes that involved technology.

“I didn’t feel proficient enough to sign up for the classes,” she said.

But soon after, she understood that taking technology classes was a must. Unfortunately, neither social media nor video classes were offered in the journalism major. During her studies, Rose has attended a variety of video workshops, which she thought were beneficial. This quarter Rose will be receiving her bachelor’s degree. Looking back, she said, the Communications Department has done an outstanding job providing quality courses. She thinks that classes such as writing and law are necessary to understand the nature of the profession. However, with the changes in print and social media, Rose wishes the department would offer more technology and software classes, such as photography, video editing and Adobe Design. Judging by her own experience, Rose believes that students need to know more about technology, while also getting hands-on experience.

Lauren Smith, a senior journalism student at the University of Washington, agrees with Rose’s opinion that classes such as ethics and law should be a priority in the journalism program. Smith is a representative of the younger generation who calls herself a traditionalist.

“I am not the biggest fan of social media, although I do use it, because I prefer to interact with people in person,” she said.

This is why Smith has been distant from social media. She appreciates candid people who do not hide behind their keyboards. Her personal interactions are helping her to be a better judge of character. She believes that the biggest issue in transitioning from print to the Internet is having unqualified and untrained participants who call themselves journalists. Smith appreciates social media when it comes down to breaking news, but to be trustworthy, Smith believes, journalists should always gather and verify the information themselves, and this is how one could distinguish the professional from the amateur. She believes that these values should be the ones that matter the most when one is applying for a job.

A classmate of Smith’s, Ellena Bowen also believes in these core journalistic values, but she is also intrigued by the rise of social media. To better understand it, just as Rose, Bowen wishes to have taken more technology classes.

Bowen thinks that being familiar with social media has become an inevitable fact of the hiring process., one of the largest employment websites in the world helps candidates in their career hunt. For instance, searching for journalism or communications positions will pull a number of postings where one can see available job descriptions. Many of these postings include requirements such as: proficiency in social media strategies and competency with online digital distribution. With the rise of social media, journalism has become a profession with many platforms and many opportunities.

This iSaras why, Sara Stogner, a photojournalist and an editor for a nonprofit multimedia journalism organization called the Common Language Project, believes that it is critical for journalism students to be introduced to technology. Judging from her own experience Stogner thinks that becoming familiar with online news outlets, e-technologies and social media networks will increase student’s chances of finding a job.

“Social media came to journalism as the ‘sky falling moment,’” she said.

She realized the importance of social media when the Arab Uprising, a major movement and a moment in history, unfolded worldwide in 140 characters trough Twitter. Stogner felt excited and terrified.

“It’s becoming more and more critical how social media is connected to journalism,” she said.

Stronger has noticed how employers in the industry no longer want just a writer or just a photographer. They want the multi-kit journalist who can do it all. Stogner taught past quarter the Adobe Premier workshop at the University of Washington. Judging from her personal experience, adding classes such design and photojournalism can really benefit students. With the rise of freelance writing, Stogner believes, journalists need to establish a brand name and a visibility. If she had one advice for students, on top of the technology classes, is to take branding and marketing courses. Stogner is afraid that there is the potential of discrimination against individuals who are not tech-savvy, and she believes that gaining digital literacy will eliminate these barriers to entry in the workforce, for any generation.

Professor and chair for the Department of Communication at the University of Washington, David Domke agrees that social media and technology have become an important part of the journalism profession. This is why, he said, the department offers a variety of free, non-credit and credit workshops. However, the journalism major is not a technology major, he said, the focus of the program is to teach students how to do news, how to write, how to interview, how to talk to sources, how to find information and how to maintain these relationships. The department incorporates multimedia projects in a variety of classes in which students learn about blogging and how journalists can use tools such as Twitter.

“Nobody gets out without learning several multimedia elements,” Domke said.

Domke encourages students who are interested in those tools and technologies to attend the workshops and to do online tutorials. That said, the department tries to offer a number of electives, such as a photojournalism class this coming winter, but this is only done periodically. These occasional courses won’t be a core component of the curriculum, at least for now, Domke said.

Different social media outlets can serve different journalists and different audiences. Readership is divided. After all, the generational difference could be a good thing as long as everyone finds the right tools and their own niches to communicate with the audiences they are trying to reach.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s