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Preliminary report from the College Tour

"He slung his words at us like darts."

That's the lead from an article in the student-run newspaper at the University of Tennessee-Martin about my recent appearance at the Southeast Journalism Conference, where I gave the keynote presentation (titled "Brace Yourself: What journalism is like in 2008. Why you're not ready for it. What you can do about it.") and joined in a panel discussion on the future of newspapers.
You can read the entire article here. But suffice it to say that my comments caused some discomfort among some of the students and teachers in attendance.

Here are a few of my thoughts.

1. Over and over again I heard from students that the journalism departments at their schools were divided. Some teachers are offering coursework and advice related to new media and convergence. But other teachers are adamant about adhering to a one-medium track. And if the students' reports are to be believed, the split among teachers is acrimonious.
2. Several students complained to me that they had difficulty following my speech because they were seated near teachers and professionals who grumbled and complained throughout my presentation.
3. There's little doubt that today's students aren't following developments in today's media. Nearly everyone I spoke with seem genuinely surprised when I talked about layoffs, shuttered newspapers and declining market values.
4. The weirdest thing I heard at SJC: A senior editor who manages a section at a major daily newspaper told the students how excited he was that he was about to get training on how to post his department's stories to the Web. All I could think of was "who the hell has been doing it for the past few years?"
5. The coolest thing I saw at SJC: the student media center at Ole Miss. It's positively gorgeous.
6. The coolest site I saw at SJC: Vanderbilt's InsideVandy, a Drupal-based, multimedia powerhouse. It won the SJC award for best student-run website.
7. The coolest thing I learned about at SJC: GIMP, an open-source alternative to Photoshop. I'd heard about GIMP before, but I never bothered to check it out (I think the name of the product just offended me.) But now I'm sold.

Next week I'll be meeting with students, teachers and other professionals at Northwest Missouri State University. The week after that I'll be running a one-day workshop and joining in two panels at the College Media Advisers convention.
When those gigs are done, I promise to share my thoughts on the next generation of journalists.

In the meantime, check out blog posts by students who attended SJC here and here.
And take a look at this earlier post on the next generation of journalists (and check out the comments.)

tags: , , , , , , , journalism education