G’day and Kia Ora from Down-Under. (See… picked up the lingo and everyfink.)
Right, we’re verrrry close to launching the news website that I have built. It’s called NewsWire, and come launch day, you’ll find it right here: www.newswire.co.nz . Until then you’ll have to do with a little coming soon note. Unless you know your way around Wordpress, in which case you’ll be able to load the homepage with a bit of URL jiggery-pokery.
But you wouldn’t do that, would you? It would be like opening window 24 on the 1st of December. It’s just not the done thing.
Anyway. To the point:
I hit a dilemma today. How involved in the web process should my students be?
In a perfect world, they’d do it all. Gather news, write copy, take pictures, record audio, take video, produce multimedia packages and so on. And then plonk it all into a CMS ready to hit the web at the click of a button.
However, we don’t live in a perfect world. Some people won’t get it. It’s not their fault. I can safely say that I could be taught by the artist in the world — but I’ll never be able to draw. Slightly different, yes, but the principles are still there. We have to get used to the fact that not everyone will be able to be an online journalist to the full degree.
But that’s not to say they can’t do some of it.
It’s like when I do radio. I can edit audio, cue clips up, do all (most?) of the technical things. Not to mention all the newsgathering beforehand. Yet, I couldn’t present a sandwich, let alone a radio show. So I leave that to someone else.
For web, what skills should we be insisting students learn at least?
Well, me and my crack team (so that’s myself and two tech-minded students, then), have decided that every student should probably be expected tonewsgather (audio, pictures and video included), and then accompany that raw material with a written article.
Said article should then be loaded onto the CMS (as I said, we’re using Wordpress. A doddle?).
That, the team decided, should probably be it. Students will then email their multimedia to a special Gmail account (for the storage, you understand) for it to be prepared and then uploaded before eventually going live.
The people doing the uploading will be a squad of four. Jim (the program leader), myself (tutor) plus Luke and Aaron — the two tech-minded students.
The process that the normal students won’t get involved in — unless they show a desire to — is cropping and resizing images; cutting, compressing and uploading audio/video; and producingslideshows with Soundslides. And, they will also be spared the hassle of using all the custom field bits of Wordpress that are necessary to make sure our template works correctly.
This is good from our point of view. It’ll mean we get sorted quicker, and content will be clean, consistent and well-produced from the offset.
But am I doing the other students a disservice by not insisting they get involved with the WHOLE procedure?
I’m tempted to run a series of 2-hour workshops on Audacity, Soundslides and Windows Movie Maker (no comments on the software, please. That’s all that’s on offer. And anyway, it’s a good bunch). But in doing so I risk making the whole experience seem too complex and, as a result, very offputting.
For me, online journalism isn’t about what goes on inside the computer. It’s more about attacking stories with a certain state of mind. It’s about knowing that certain stories work better with video. It’s about knowing that audio just HAS to be downloadable if we are to know how that greasy politician really sounded. It’s about seeing news in a way that isn’t just printed or spoken word.
That seems the greater goal: Giving the students that bite for online reporting. Once that’s laid down, the technical expertise can come afterwards — if at all.
Am I right?