~~ A guest blog by Samantha Costa and Danielle Tamburilla, Lambda Pi Eta members and College of Communication students ~~
“In the digital age, journalists have to be willing to experiment, to try new things, and to adapt. And you have to do it because you are passionate about it,” says Online Journalism Professor Mark Berkey-Gerard.
It’s true. The world in which we live now is far different than it was just a decade ago. The introduction of the Internet and social media sites has allowed us to get news faster and more easily. With the click of a mouse, we can gain access to a world of information, causing the journalism world to shift uncomfortably under the pressure.
Journalism majors and minors have recently been required to take Online Journalism I, a class that introduces students to the world of practicing journalism online. However, online journalism courses prove valuable to all students interested in communication.
In Online Journalism I, students set-up and maintain a blog about a chosen beat throughout the semester. Two posts are required each week along with occasional specialty posts where students apply knowledge recently learned in class to their news gathering and reporting.
For students who are new to working online, this course is a great way to lay the foundation for a possible career. Many techniques taught in Online Journalism I are slowly but surely becoming requirements for entry-level jobs in communication. If a student has never handled a digital or video camera, edited audio captured with microphones and digital voice recorders, written simple HTML, or even produced a blog, Professor Berkey-Gerard has it covered.
Skills learned in Online Journalism I include “writing for the web, effective hyper-linking, basic multimedia reporting and production, use of a content management system, basic HTML and CSS, and an intro to SEO, and how social media can be used as a reporting tool,” says Professor Berkey-Gerard. In layman’s terms, Online Journalism I offers students a chance to employ powerful storytelling techniques using text, links, photos, maps, audio and video on their very own blog. Not only do students learn how write and create multimedia content for the web, they also master how to garner and grow an audience and use social media effectively. In addition, students come out of Online Journalism I with knowledge of web-related acronyms like SEO (Search Engine Optimization)!
Online Journalism I can be taken by a wide variety of students, because it doesn’t assume knowledge in the area. According to Professor Berkey-Gerard, “Online Journalism I is an introductory course, so I try to expose students to a range of ideas and approaches. In the beginning of the semester I try to emphasize effort and experimentation. I don’t expect students to do everything perfectly the first time. I want them to try new things and learn from the experience.”
Online Journalism II builds upon principles from the first course to create a class website comprised of original stories centered on a theme chosen by students at the beginning of the semester. Students branch off into four groups, dealing with different aspects of the site. The tech group works the back-end of the website, tackling more web development skills, as the social media group acts as PR for the website, posting information on Twitter and Facebook. The editorial group establishes the textual introduction and sets the key ideas in place for arranging stories to match the topics chosen. The design group is responsible for picking a theme for the site, how it looks, and what is viewable to visitors.
All in all, students who take both Online Journalism I and II can expect to learn a great deal about using the Internet that can be applied in any communications related situation. In addition, students come out of these classes with a unique set of skills that could give them a leg up on the competition when searching for a job.