Can Our Students Save Journalism?
Much has been written over the past two years
about the demise of journalism. The hemorrhage
of circulation in both the newspaper and magazine industry internationally has spurred massive staff
cutbacks, plant closures, and the coinage of such phrases
as journacide (journalists leaving the business in droves)
and journosaurs (scribes on the verge of extinction).
Many people who grew up addicted to reading newspapers
decry the very loss of democracy itself. And some of them are
wildly pointing fingers at the Internet, where free Web content
has lured people away from paid sources of news.
“This is disastrous for our culture and democracy…
Web 2.0 won’t solve this problem,” tweeted ed tech guru
Gary Stager in reaction to an article about the sharp decrease in freelance writers’ wages.
In his blog Weblogged, Will Richardson takes issue with
Stager in the post “Norms of Participation.” Richardson
doesn’t deny that there is an erosion of quality journalism;
he just thinks there is a solution.
Whether we see the Web as beast or feast, it’s long
past the moment that anyone can argue it away on the
grounds that decency and civility and intellectual engagement are being lost. That leaves us with how do we
make the most of it? How do we (and it’s not “can we?”
because I believe we can) take this huge disruptive
force that is the Web and turn it into something that
celebrates culture, promotes and supports the best of
our democratic ideals, and improves the world in ways
that maybe we can’t yet imagine?
And this is where digital citizenship comes in. In Richardson’s words, we need to “find and promote the real intellectual value of these tools in literate ways. Because they
exist, and because, like it or not, we’re the ones who, in
Clay Shirky’s words, have to set the norms for their use.”
Many of the 15 commenters to Richardson’s post were
optimistic about the possibilities and felt that the Internet
does offer responsible, quality journalism:
I have read good and bad prose in all media. I am not
concerned. Democracy has a better chance in the In-
ternet age than it ever did during the television age.
I don’t believe the Web is destroying writing. The Web
is transforming culture, and it is our responsibility as
educators to tap into the students’ willingness to write,
to nurture it, to guide them, and to be willing to learn
along the way. —Dolores Gende
I think it’s time to rethink how we teach children
about digital resources. Yes, it’s time to be more open
to accepting Wikipedia and similar media as factual
(vetted, of course). But who’s holding the New York
Times, Washington Post, Washington Times, Fox News,
CNN et al. accountable? —Don Watkins
I guess I will choose connectedness over disconnectedness. I’ll take the good, the bad, and what Stager
says, because within all that I am able to get some
pretty good stuff a lot easier than I could have just a
few years back. —Patrick Larkin
The tools that allow everyone to express themselves
also allow everyone to find the best content. Ultimately, the trash will fall to the bottom, and the cream will
rise to the top. —Tim Goree
Bryan Fuqua responded to Richardson’s post on his blog,
Preparing Students for Tomorrow. In “Why Must We Use
Web 2.0 in Our Classrooms!” ( http://bfuqua.risd-blogs.
rooms), he writes:
Literacy has changed. It is extremely important to
teach our students how to research and share their
findings, how to communicate globally, how to
collaborate, and how to express themselves in
an appropriate manner.
Hear, hear. And it sure beats giving up on journalism.
Diana Fingal is the senior editor for L&L. She has been writing for and editing periodicals for more than 20 years.