When I found out that I won the “First Annual News Challenge” I wasn’t sitting in an editor’s office or getting ready to talk at a conference about new media – I was in my dorm room trying to decide whether or not I wanted to order a pizza for dinner. All of a sudden I was plopped at the forefront of an industry near the brink of some incredibly exciting technological innovations armed with nothing more than a big idea, a few complaints, and my Millennial demographic.
In the next few months I went through a crash course where I learned a lot more about the inner turmoil and drama (tension between the old and the new?) going on in the journalism industry and the quest for a magical “online news” recipe. It is a noble and necessary cause for sure, but there is room for improvement in the way everyone is going about it. Since I only have so much time before I learn too much and lose the fresh eyes of a newbie, I’m going to take this opportunity to throw two initial comments out to the crowd.
First, thinking outside the box is great, but hiring outside the box is even better. From what I can tell, most people are not looking in the right places for new ideas. Just off the top of my head I can think of 20 Business/Information Systems/Computer Science students at Carnegie Mellon with the imagination and skill needed to help design and develop new systems for the journalism process. Want to guess how many media companies were at our job fair last month? Zero.
It looks like media organizations don’t realize that students with a technology degree are trained to use their knowledge in any industry that needs it. Tech experts are experts because they know how to apply their skill sets in new areas. Of course the specific processes and values of journalism are incredibly important and need to be retained, but it is far easier (and less expensive) to teach a programmer the fundamentals of journalism than it is to teach a journalist how to design and implement successful system architecture – and programmers are trained to learn.
My second comment is simply that Citizen Journalists and Professional Journalists should really try to get along. But this is probably a topic best left for another day.