Teaching journalism differently in Europe should follow social media trends

by Nita Wiggins, ESJ-Paris

(Jyvaskyla, Finland) - The staggering statistic of 190 million tweets being sent each day (statisticbrain.com) shows that the top-down structure of sharing information does not dominate anymore.  As connectivity spreads, interactive journalism must come to the forefront.  InternetWorldStats.com reports 518 million internet users and 250 million Facebook accounts in Europe alone (2012).  Further, internet penetration throughout Europe is 63%. Key to a dynamic classroom environment going forward is harnessing social media and putting it to work in teaching, according to speakers at the EJTA conference in late May.

nita_wigginsTwo strategies strategies that could work hand-in-hand emerged: mandating data journalism courses and focusing on long-form reports. Reetta Nousiainen said the experience with her company, Long Play/ Haaga Helia, shows that audiences want in-depth pieces, even investigative pieces on the web.  Each “e-single” of a report runs 50-60,000 words and covers an important topic.

The creative process is “research, write well, edit even better.”  Roughly one story a month is produced and then sold in a digital format only. For professionals to have the savoir-faire to produce substantive content and differentiate themselves from citizen journalists, Turo Uskali and Heikki Kuutti suggest data journalism stories.  The DJ specialists from the University of Jyvaskyla outlined the process of asking a pertinent question, receiving official data, analyzing it, “cleaning” it and then questioning appropriate sources.  The relevant person or people to be interviewed could be found from searches within social media channels.

EJTA (European Journalism Training Association) delegates discussed making data journalism courses compulsory on campuses of member institutions.  “Impact of Social Media on Journalism and Journalism Education” was the topic during the annual meeting in Jyvaskyla, Finland.

Nita Wiggins, a US citizen journalist, is currently in charge of English-speaking journalism program for ESJ Paris and was its delegate at EJTA's annual meeting in Finland.


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