Saturday, November 03, 2007

'Generation Intransigent'?

OK, Halloween is over, but this meme of posts from Paul Conley and Howard Owens is just plain frightening.

In 25 words or less, and playing off a recent speech by Rob Curley (he the self-titled "Internet punk" out of the Washington Post by way of Lawrence, Kan., and Naples, Fla.):

In newsrooms across the country we have Generation Intransigent -- 23-year-olds who despise online as "not real journalism" and see themselves as "writers," which roughly translates to "in the newspaper."

From Conley, reporting from the National College Media Convention: I met a lot of students at the convention. And I'm afraid I must say the next crop of entry-level journalists is about as close-minded as the present set. There were some exceptions, but they were few and far between. Most of the folks I met were similar to the "silo students" I've been complaining about for awhile now -- those inflexible seniors who become the close-minded 23-year olds in Rob's newsrooms.

From Owens: The kids right out of college, they’re the ones most likely to cling to a romanticism about being the crusading print reporter. When I talk about web-first publishing, they’re the ones most likely to say, “but won’t we scoop ourselves?” Or when handed a video camera, they say, “but I got in this business to be a writer.” I’ve heard from more than one fellow executive the tale of promising young reporters taking jobs in PR because that somehow seemed more palatable doing this online stuff.

(BTW: The comments to those posts, some of which name names, are worth your while, too.)

(Update: Some other links

I'm sure that's out there. And, yes, I still see some of it among our students -- though those cases are more like "I want to report on nothing but ... (fill in the blank: music, sports, entertainment).

Maybe I'm lucky, but what I see among our students is a group of folks trying to "get it." Sure, they're struggling like many people. Remember, while they are the "digital generation," for many their love of journalism began on the high school paper. That's their frame. (Which, perhaps, is the start of another fruitful discussion of how this industry has got to get into the high schools and influence things there so students have a wider frame coming into college. It wouldn't hurt if we spelled out the realities of the business, too, that at its core it's not so much about writing but reporting; you can't write it if it isn't in the notebook. That's where I see more students have breakdowns ("You mean I have to go talk to people?" But I digress ...)

We are struggling, as are many schools, to figure out exactly what to teach and where in the curriculum and to do it within the constraints of the academy (see this post for an extended discussion on that). But by golly we are moving ahead where we can, and the students are not just following, they often are leading. This past week, for instance, seven students -- six from South Carolina -- died in a beach house fire. No, the coverage out of our practicum newsroom wasn't as extensive as that of the local paper or the campus paper, but take a look at our site. You'll see video. Our students weren't assigned to do this -- they pushed to do it and wanted to do more.

(And the campus paper, The Daily Gamecock, blasted out instant text messages to more than 13,000 people who have signed up.)

Scroll down a bit and you'll see video in connection with the Jena 6 demonstration. We sent reporters there. They moblogged back using Flickr. (No, our site is not great. We use World Now and can't do a lot of what we'd like. But we work around that.)

Go to this story and look at the slideshow in connection with a look at what happens when you get arrested -- and what can go wrong.

And every student who comes out of the Carolina Reporter is going to have spent some serious time with me reading and discussing what is happening in this business. Gannett's initiative, the AJC's -- and how they differ and which might be the more significant -- the move to tabloids overseas and what it might portend here, citizen journalism through the Hartsville Today project, search engine optimization and what it might mean, and the management challenges all this brings.

Every time they edit a story, they also have to create an SMS version (for practice; we don't have the means to text yet), and they have to provide at least three solid online links, which includes fashioning text that tells the reader why those links are important and credibility.

The students coming out of our "print newsroom" at the University of South Carolina will not only talk the talk but walk the walk. (One recent grad is leading training on Sony Vegas for the North Carolina newsroom where he now works.)

Are they digital ninjas? No. But they're not Generation Intransigent either.

(Want to hire some? E-mail me or Beverly Dominick, longtime Gannett and Media General hiring specialist who's now our internship and employment coordinator.)

Update: John Robinson, editor at the Greensboro News & Record, checks in on his blog to say he has not found "Generation Intransigent" to be the case, either. That's good.

Over at PJNet, however, Len Witt gets it a little askew when he suggests my post is among those "which almost disparage young graduates who say they really only want to be writers." No, my post, in reaction to those who say they see students who only want to be "newspaper writers," is simply to say that while our students want to be great writers, too, they are not intransigent and are willing to dabble in these other areas if it improves their storytelling. Thought there needed to be a little clarification there. I like the comment by my former colleague Bryan Murley -- it's not so much we think they need to be both pitcher and catcher, but even the best big league pitcher is expected to lay down a sacrifice bunt from time to time.

Curley also responds
to Witt.

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At 11/3/07, 1:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm curious about what cameras were used for the video of the South Carolina beach house ceremony. It was excellent work on what looked like low-end equipment.

At 11/4/07, 2:00 AM, Blogger Doug said...


They are small Sonys, 3-chip as I recall, but I have to get the model number on Monday. I'll post it here.

Thanks for the kind words on the video. It was just edited in iMovie and exported as an MOV file; we don't get into the dark magic of compression for now. That would be a bit too much info overload. But that also might account for some of the pixelation/roughness of the video. We use the cameras for broadcast as well, and they produce fine video.

At 11/5/07, 1:36 PM, Blogger Doug said...

The cameras are DSR PD 170 Sony, Lavalier Microphone is a Sure SM 11-CN, Stick Mic is an Electro Voice EV-635. A minishotgun comes with the camera.

The camera dates to 2004 and is not HD. But it takes a beating, which is fine for our folks. At some point we'll have to get into HD.

Here's a 2004 review, if you want.


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