Monday, September 10, 2012

Eric Newton: "Are You an Engine of Change or The Caboose Being Dragged Along?"

The job of a great school of media and communications, Eric Newton said, is to deal with the shrinking professional journalism field and figure out what to do with the gigantic screaming echo chamber that is social media.

Journalism, he said, has been turned upside-down and inside-out because of the digital age. Where readers, viewers and listeners were once the audience, we are all now a part of a giant community, where news and information goes in multiple directions at once.

But Newton, the senior advisor to the president of the Knight Foundation, wanted to know whether you thought that journalism education was adapting quick enough?

Journalism education, he argued, is a turtle in an age when the communications field evolves lightning quick. He called journalism education a "symphony of slowness." Colleges have an emphasis on research, which he argued adds little to the industry. Rather, he would like to see journalism programs adapt a teaching hospital model where students study with and work alongside professionals who are helping to shape the future of journalism.

Temple, he said, was among the better journalism programs in the country. Then he added, "You're a fast turtle. But from where I sit, you're still a turtle."

Some of the technology and crazy ideas represented in futuristic movies like Minority Report, The Matrix and I,Robot are now commonplace, Newton said, and others are coming. These new ideas and devices will change the way we communicate.

"Are you an engine of change or the caboose being dragged along?" he asked.

Here are a few others things he said that stood out for me:

• "Figure it out" was the best advice he ever received.
• You don't need a journalism degree to become a journalist but it helps. Journalism school teaches you the skills and value of the craft.
• To be successful as a modern journalist, you need to be very good at a few things and good at a lot more. Being a single-skilled journalist will not be enough.
• Journalism without community engagement is not enough.
• Measuring engagement is difficult - is it based upon comments, shares, action resulting from stories, etc?
• Newspapers are not dying. Home-delivered, paid circulation, subscriber-based newspapers in the industrialized world are in trouble.
• Technology makes everything harder and easier at the same time.

What stood out for you?


JustinWagner said...

What stood out to me most was Mr. Newton's emphasis on how he would like to see journalism programs adapt a teaching hospital model where students study with and work alongside professionals who are helping to shape the future of journalism. This is what every person needs in life, one who has mastered the skill... A teacher. Not a man standing in front of a room, speaking to a number of students like he's a robot. But a teacher who treats they're students like they're the same, and engages into conversations with them about their life and everyday events. Well the teacher knows that the pupil has no past experience or knowledge on the skill so therefore has all the power in the relationship. But the main thing is that knowledge is supposed to be passed down, and correctly. So the teacher can apply his own mistakes throughout his life during the profession or skill he's teaching, and makes sure their pupil won't make those same mistakes when it's their time to enter work force. Every great man/woman has had an influential teacher who helps them create their foundation, Obi-Won Kenobi with Luke Skywalker, the Buddha and his first Monks/Followers, Mr. Miyagi and Danny from the Karate kid. No matter how you look at it, it's always easier to learn when you feel like your not taking on the world all by yourself. It would be extremely weird to see Journalism turn into a profession based around apprenticeship but that would definitely be an example of Journalism evolving into something new.

Geo said...

Er, did you just call me a robot? Ha!

Justin ... let me be your Mr. Miyagi.

- George
(the teacher with the power in this relationship)

Bob Dieckmann said...

" To be successful as a modern journalist, you need to be very good at a few things and good at a lot more"

This is a great point made by Mr. Newton. These days a journalist must be multidimensional. Most of us will find ourselves involved in small operations that require contributors to not only research and cover a story, but also write it, edit it, format it using specialized software, and even post it to a blog or website. Social media promotion also makes you your own advertiser. Things that were once the job of several people now fall squarely on the shoulders of the journalist producing the content.

JustinWagner said...

No of course not George!

You engage with your students and if they aren't focused you usually say something during lecture to get their full attention. It's quite entertaining honestly.

I'm down though! (bows to sensei)

Anonymous said...

While I do value Mr. Newton’s opinion, I thought his entire lecture was completely forgettable and, well, a bit pointless. What did he hope to accomplish by coming to a college class to spend an hour (or however long he talked at us) bemoaning about how our education is failing us?

I sat in the front rows of the lecture, I paid attention to him, but I did not take away anything from his talk - I couldn’t even tell you what most of his lecture was about (other then the few points you mentioned and the little notes I wrote down).

I thought it was a bit of a waste. There was the potential to open discussion about the direction media is currently headed as well as the expanded role of civilians in journalism, but sadly we were only treated to a laundry list of his grievances. Lame!

Andrew Sifari said...

"Figure it out" is definitely good advice today; people are very dependent on being showed how to do things, or rely on the internet to find things out. When I think about it, the best, and most important skills, are the ones I learned on the fly when I needed to. I don't necessarily agree, though, with the idea of it being completely necessary to be skilled at a lot of things and a master of nothing. While it is useful, this will never lead to prolonged success in a given field. I think it is better to be extremely potent in a few areas rather than merely good at many. It did stand out to me, as another student pointed out, that Mr. Newton felt the need to question our selection and need for a journalism degree, as we all clearly made that decision already.

Emily Charles said...

While I respect Eric Newton's opinion, because he is obviously very successful, I don't necessarily agree. Yes, journalism is evolving at a rapid pace. However, this doesn't mean universities are incapable of keeping up. He compared Temple as a "fast turtle". Although I am only a freshman, I can already tell that Temple's Journalism program is everything but. We are learning about how journalism is currently working, not how it worked in the past. We are studying journalism in all its forms, even the most current ones.

Bob Stewart said...

"Figure it out" is great advice. But like most advice it does not apply universally. In his own context it was about a new technology the newspaper he was working for utilized. I can relate. When I took over the newspaper at CCP I inherited no remaining staff. My team was enthusiastic but we collectively knew zilch about Adobe InDesign. Five days later there was a newspaper on the newsstands. We figured it out.

I don't see how that applies to the future of journalism. Frankly I don't think anyone will figure it out. I think a ton of people will guess and a small percentage of them will inevitably turn out to be correct. They will then write books about what factors led them to gues..err, uh figure it out.

Temple and other schools shouldn't be guessing. They should be preparing students with the proper skills to be the best possible journalists. With the theory and the know-how, their students will be working competently in the current field and eventually making the most educated guess about the future.

Melonee Rembert said...

I thought he was...meh.

Dan Snyder said...

What stood out to me most was the crocks with the suit. Fly looks for the future of man kind!

Kevin Soboloski said...

The title of this post stood out to me the most, I enjoyed the analogy of "Are You an Engine of Change or The Caboose Being Dragged Along?" Despite not fully agreeing with everything Eric had to say. This analogy applies to keeping up with technology and being in "the loop" For example, I do not have an iphone or ipad or any smart phone of the sort. Which puts a damper on how fast and efficiently I communicate with friends, while at the same time I cannot even access the internet. This is inconvenient relative to others because I cannot access the internet from almost anywhere, since I need my computer. I am the caboose.

Moumita Ghosh said...

The things that stood out for me was how Eric Newton said that journalist programs should have a teaching model where students study with and work alongside professionals. And I really liked how he told us that it is very important to be very good in one thing than being kinda good in many things, and yet have more than just one type of skill in order to be successful as a journalist. I enjoyed listening to Eric Newton's talk and glad he came in to talk to our class.