Part 2 – Convergence in J-School

Prof. Richard Craig gave his lunchtime talk on Convergence to a handful of SJSU J-School faculty, and I was happy to see reps from broadcast, print, the grad program, and advertising there.

Prof. Craig went over some of the fun details about hanging out at Poynter – he’s a real fan of the First Amendment in Stone. The seminar participants sat in on a few news meetings at the convergence work-in-progress that is the Tampa Tribune newspaper/WFLA local NBC affiliate/Tampa Bay Online – people are starting to call this system “The Florida Model.” The motto of the place kind of freaks me out though: THINK AS ONE. What exactly is the difference between a Converged Newsroom and a Monopoly of Ideas? On one hand, the print, broadcast, and online sections can communicate with each other and share ideas – but I’m not sure that’s happening here yet. It seems more like what Prof. Craig called “shovelware” – as in you move the content from the newspaper and newscast with a shovel over to the website. On the other hand, would there be a broader range of stories and representation if the newsrooms were kept independent of each other?

Mental note: “convergence” is the new “synergy”.

Prof. Craig’s highlights from Larry Pryor’s talk and the three-headed core curriculum model:
-print majors might not need to know how to run a video camera.
-where’s the photo element?
-team teaching is necessary – each instructor won’t know everything at first.
-assign a team of students to cover a story, let them rotate through the crew positions so that they get a taste of everything.

That last part makes a limited amount of sense to me – at NYU Film, I was able to learn a little bit of everything and then specialize in what I was passionate about. I wouldn’t have found out which craft my strongest interest was in until I had tried a few things. But in the field or the studio, it doesn’t take long for that rotation schedule to break down — once I had lit a few video projects, I lit them all. That was what I enjoyed, so it worked out.

I think there’s a difference between teaching a base interdisciplinary curriculum and this “convergence” concept. Convergence should bring together the common tools of different disciplines – as Pryor points out, USC had to get back to basics and bring the writing level of their students up to par. Good writing is a common tool across platforms, and should be the first, last, and middle thing taught in J-School, right?

Meanwhile, no one at Prof. Craig’s presentation brought up the current webcentric classes that the school offers, which does worry me – given that we’re located in downtown San Jose, shouldn’t the school be a little more forceful in seizing the opportunity to train their students to work in Silicon Valley?

Or am I the only one interested in that sort of job?

We’ll see how it goes – remember, I just got here.

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