Reinvent one thing at a time

I’ve had an exciting week.

Talking to profs and students at the AEJMC convention really lit the proverbial fire under my ass, and I’ve been able to get started on a database (Okay, so it’s just a spreadsheet at the moment.) that will be the kernel of my thesis data.

Meanwhile, I put together a pair of stories at my internship, and things are going well there.

The whole time, this post by Bryan Murley at Reinventing College Media keeps popping up in my mind:

“But in the midst of these moments of panic, I re-learned something that would serve us all as we plot our courses into the future of news: If you can just do one thing … do one thing, and do it well.”

He’s talking about how to reinvent your student newspaper, one element at a time, but the same holds true for a 300,000 circulation metropolitan daily, or an aspiring online journalist.

Or me.

So with so much out there that I want to learn and do and practice — Flash, CSS, PHP, Django, podcasting, video editing, maps mashups, hyperlocal community site management, etc. — I’ve decided to stop trying to figure it all out at once and concentrate on one thing at a time.

For now, that thing is Web design.

So I’m practicing. I’ve got a complete redesign (and a re-branding of sorts) in the works here. Here’s a taste:

And when that’s done, I’m going to try my hand at putting together a healthy little blog template for one of my employers, hoping to weasel my way into the online department there. 😉

And of course, none of this will get my full attention until I hand in my thesis proposal on August 30th.

What’s the one thing you want to learn, do, or reinvent this fall?

10 things I heard at the AEJMC convention today

Let me tell you about my first time … at the AEJMC convention.

Seriously, I had never been to a conference or convention that was about my own field before today. I mean, I’ve hung out with the physicists and the photographers and maybe even the real estate data information professionals back when I was a wee tyke, but this was (obviously) cooler. I mean, as cool as you can expect a bunch of journalism educators to be. Which ain’t bad.

I felt a little awkward about identifying myself, because I kept switching from student to researcher to reporter in midsentence, leaving people asking me ‘Wait, where are you from?’

Wish I could have made it there all week, but San Francisco is far, and there are stories to be filed and thesis proposals to conjure out of thin air.

So without further narrative lede, here’s Ten Things I Heard Today

  1. J-Schools can act as hubs for all sorts of interesting experiments. They can aggregate ethnic news outlets, bootstrap citizen media projects, or develop new news products from the ground up.
  2. The need for media literacy increases right alongside the number of communication channels. This theme was repeated by a few people today, Dan Gillmor among them, who pointed out that skepticism is a requirement to sort out the signal/noise ratio online.
  3. The best pitch I heard on how to teach computer programming to journalism students (which everyone wants to do, but no one knows how to do) came from SFSU’s Andrew DeVigal, who thinks it can be taught online, where the few kids at each school who want to learn it can meet up with someone like Adrian Holovaty all at once. Sign me up.
  4. Keeping journalism students in their silos (print, broadcast, online) and just adding classes might not be the answer, but convergence isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, either. Lots of schools in lots of different spots on the continuum on that issue. Thorny one.
  5. Phil Meyer of UNC has faith that something new is going to develop out of the decline of the print newspaper, and today’s journalism students are going to be the ones inventing it. The job of the J-School is to prepare them to do so. Jerry Ceppos said something along these lines, too: Journalism students should be learning “how to expect change.”
  6. It sure would be nice if journalism students could learn something about business strategies, entrepreneurship, and new product development. Why? Because investment banking firms and media moguls might not have the same principles as journalists. Plus, getting information gathering and business sense on the same team makes for innovative news.
  7. Journalism schools should be leading the profession, and not the profession leading the journalism schools. J-School should be more like law school or medical school, driving changes in the industry rather than always playing catch-up.
  8. Newspapers are still having a hard time finding journalists to build infographics, interactive graphics, and multimedia presentations. Unfortunately, J-Schools are having just as hard a time finding faculty to teach those things. See Andrew’s idea above at #3. Calling Mindy McAdams
  9. J-Schools aren’t going to be able to teach all this stuff on their own. There must be some dance partners out there, whether we’re talking about a magnet high school full of little programmers and web designers or a venture capital company willing to finance an experiment.
  10. Make your journalism school a laboratory and experiment with the future of journalism. Emulating a vanishing medium teaches students how to vanish.

Thanks to all the folks I buttonholed after panels, on elevators, and in the halls today, whether I was acting like a student, researcher, or reporter.

Blog research at the AEJMC convention

For next week’s trick, I’ll be both a reporter and a student at the AEJMC convention. I’m planning on showing up Thursday morning to the citizen journalism session and later in the day for the “What’s Next for Newspapers and for Journalism Education? – A Continuing Discussion” session.

Of course, I might want to duck into some presentations of research papers on blogs, since I’m supposed to be working on my thesis proposal right now while I am writing this.

Here’s a handy list of the blog-related papers in play at this year’s convention.

Wabbit season, duck season, conference season, soccer season

I missed Vloggercon and Bloggercon. Gnomedex was too far away. The World Cup – also a bit of distance to cover (Yeah, so we were in Italy for most of it, but who’s counting.). Okay, that wasn’t a conference, and I did manage to watch quite a bit of it, including the final (Forza Azzurri!).

Here’s the off-topic riff on the final: It was really fun to sit at the pub and watch a bunch of Americans who had been pulled onto the root-for-France train by the easy Zidane-the-hero story get the air knocked out of them by an Italian team with a story that’s probably more compelling, but much harder to tell. The biggest Italian star, Francesco Totti, was invisible for most of the tournament, assuming you weren’t reading an Italian newspaper. Something like 10 Italians scored their 12 goals. Plus there’s the backdrop of the match-fixing scandal at home, but maybe American eyes glaze over at the phrase “could be relegated to Serie B,” so that was mostly just alluded to as a possible distraction.

Here’s the end of the rant: Zidane was silenced, even with chances in front of the Italian goal, and then completely tarnished the happy little legacy he had built himself with an as-yet inexplicable head butt to the chest of Materazzi, who, incidentally, did manage to put the ball in goal today without needing a penalty kick to do it. What was Zidane thinking? That he’s going to leave that head butt as his defining last touch on the soccer world? Not a bright move. Italy wins, breaks the penalty kick spell, for what that’s worth, and the referees have four years to think about what they’ve done this month.

Back on topic: There are at least a few useful gatherings coming up in the Bay Area.

  • SJPizzacast – July 27th in San Jose – Bloggers, podcasters, students, professionals, amateurs, faculty, freaks, geeks, pizza, and beer(?).
  • BlogHer – July 28th and 29th in San Jose – In a little over a year, BlogHer has gone from concept to conference to community, and now the second conference promises to be a by-women, of-women, for-everyone event. Here’s Jay Rosen’s notes on last year’s event. Bonus fact: co-founder Elisa Camahort is an SJSU alumna.
  • The AEJMC convention – August 2nd-5th in San Francisco – All the best in Journalism & Mass Communications research. Wednesday looks like lots of fun for me.
  • WordCamp – August 5th in San Francisco – A one-day free conference for WordPress users and developers to party together. WordPress is the free, open-source software that runs this here blog.

So, um, stop hitting refresh on that ESPN Gamecast page. It’s over. Italy won. You can go back to ignoring soccer for four years. (Note to self: get some sort of expensive cable package that involves full coverage of the Italian, Spanish, and English leagues.) (Ed. note: It’s not going to happen.)