Friday, August 07, 2009

AEJMC09: A dissenting voice

Steve Fox at the University of Massachusetts (and previously of the Washington Post's digital operations) gives voice to what I (and some others, based on my conversations) have been thinking this week -- still too much antagonism between parts of AEJMC and new media.

It's been apparent in some quarters at the future of editing/editing profs' functions this week.

Fox is off base, however, with this snark:

This is my first time at AEJMC, so I’m not sure what I expected. I just didn’t expect this. But as one friend pointed out last night, AEJ has a newspaper division.

That division (disclosure: of which I am a member) has struggled with that name for more than a year. Its members realize it is an artifact of a different age, but what should we call it when it is hemmed in by the turfs of many other divisions? (I also now head the Community Journalism Interest Group, and we are struggling with our definition, too. One thing I'm trying to do is get people to recognize that "community" is far more than a geocentric concept.)

All suggestions welcome, and I hope Fox takes a close look at AEJMC -- including its internal politics and structure -- and provides more than a "wake-up call." (It's not just at AEJMC.)

However, he is on base with this:
I went to one session on narrative, but it was solely focused on the written form. No mention of video or audio slideshows.
I'm going to be writing more on this - how we are too tied to "story" and "writing," terms that confound. I've touched on it, but it deserves a fuller exposition.

Update: Alfred Hermida also weighs in from afar.

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At 8/9/09, 1:20 PM, Blogger Steve Fox said...

Hi Doug,

Thanks for the comments.

As for the snark, you're right, mebbe it was snarky but a "Newspaper Division' is symbolic of a past time. Keeping such a name gives voice and hope to those attached to the past. AEJMC needs to be a forward-thinking organization, much more than it is now.

I realize name changes in large orgs is not a simple process. Trust me, I know. Still, it needs to happen, and quickly. Good luck.

Steve Fox

At 8/9/09, 10:21 PM, Blogger Doug said...

I don't disagree, Steve, but remember that old j-school thing about context? In this case, that a name change has been under heavy debate for more than a year (and, really, it's closer to three years or so) is needed context.

The problem is, what do you call it in an organization where it is hemmed in by other divisions and interest groups? "News" division steps on lots of those toes that think they also have parts of news (community journalism interest group, civic and citizen journalism interest group, radio/tv journalism division, magazine division ...)

Other names do the same.

Yeah, we can have a larger debate about legacy orgs and how they grew this way. But that's not all that profitable. (And everything becomes a legacy org someday -- at some point, ONA is going to have problems with that "O" in its name, for instance.)

I hate that some of these divisions are so "big iron" named, but that was a reality of the time they were created. Underneath, they have hardly stayed the same.

Instead, look at the research sessions in Newspaper Division this year - more than half dealt with current, real problems, looking forward, not back.

Perhaps the industry should read some of that research, eh? Had editors and managers done so a decade ago, nothing going on now would be much of a surprise.


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