Multimedia Journalism Changes What Universities Teach: 'Creating Multimedia Stories Will Require Flexibility, a Collaborative Spirit, and Strategic Planning,' and These Are Essential Skills That Must Now Be Learned

Article excerpt

Just as print and broadcast news media are reinventing themselves to fully embrace the Internet and newer media, schools and departments of journalism and communication are revamping their courses to acknowledge the Web's growing dominance, powers of interactivity, and the convergence of print, broadcast and online environments. But how rapidly or radically the changes will happen are difficult, unanswered questions for the media and the universities.

In a short time since the emergence of the World Wide Web, the news media, especially newspapers, have significantly altered their attitude toward the Internet. After earlier bouts of arrogant skepticism, anger and denial, the traditional mass media now concede the seismic transformations of the newer media are irreversible. Google, with a market value of $ 144 billion from its Internet-based businesses, commands attention from a newspaper industry worth $55 billion in the United States and experiencing steady meltdown in circulation and advertising revenue.

Tom Curley, president and CEO of The Associated Press and a champion of online journalism, told me that while some in the newspaper industry still are "trapped in the 'word world' and need to go 10,000 feet higher into the multimedia world," most have accepted the transition to online journalism. Internet users number more than one billion worldwide, and many eagerly participate in the interactive exchange as news-as-lecture gives way to the news-as-conversation. None of this is lost on the 458 universities and colleges in the United States and Puerto Rico from which 48,750 students graduated in 2005 with bachelor's degrees in journalism and mass communication (and 3,500 with master's degrees), according to a survey by Professor Lee B. Becker at the University of Georgia. (1)

Paradigmatic shifts in information exchange are causing universities to revise their course offerings, internships and applied research priorities. Though change can come slowly in the conservative, consensus-driven and budget-strapped halls of higher learning, it is underway. My experiences related to founding and directing a journalism department and journalism resources institute and then in helping design an interdisciplinary communication school at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, reminds me of challenges involved in keeping pace with rapid and significant technological changes.

Aligning Lessons With Newsroom Changes

Last year, I interviewed editors and publishers from all the daily newspapers serving New Jersey and many of the weekly community chains. My inquiries were made for a book I published in 2007, "From Ink on Paper to the Internet: Past Challenges and Future Transformations for New Jersey's Newspapers," when the New Jersey Press Association (NJPA) celebrated its 150th anniversary as the oldest continually operating press association in the nation. NJPA supported my research.

With these editors and publishers, I discussed two topics in particular:

* What they regard as the fate of newspapers 10 and 30 years from now and why.

* How universities can better educate future journalists or train existing newspaper staff.

I've written extensively about newer media, including a book on electronic publishing in the embryonic days of videotex, teletext and online databases, which were prelude to the explosion of personal computers that paved the way for the Internet's mass appeal in the 1990's. Many from print media who once were so dismissive of interactive media today regard the Internet as central to their survival. Larger metro and midsized dailies are reinventing themselves as 24/7 news centers, distributing multimedia news, and smaller community papers are also involved. When we spoke, many predicted that in three decades newspapers would survive but in sharply altered form and in a secondary role to their multimedia, online Web sites, with many more print niche publications. …