It’s the last week of semester so hopefully that means I won’t be neglecting this blog as much in the future. My days have been spent madly marking student blogs, which has resulted in a number of conversations about whether in fact I should have students blogging at all. For those who are regular readers here you will know my answer to that question: “Yes of course”.
The general view in the ‘blogging is a waste of time’ camp is that blogging is not journalism and that it is teaching inexperienced journalism students to include their opinion, when they are still struggling with the concept of objective news. My response to this camp is generally that more and more journalists are blogging – whether it be for a masthead or personally. What easier way is there for a journalism student to build a portfolio than to start publishing their work on a blog? And finally I stress that teaching blogging means stressing that it is a different form of writing than news. I try to have students build informed opinions – that means researching a topic, using multiple sources and backing up opinions with strong facts – all valuable skills for journalists of the future.
There are also numerous other benefits to having students blogging regularly.
- They are actually writing regularly – you’d be surprised, but for students who claim to want to be writers many aren’t crafting words that regularly.
- Engaging with media content – I have my students analyse media coverage and issues as a way to ensure they are actually ingesting news – again you’d be surprised the number of students who want to be a journalist, but aren’t actually watching/ reading any news.
- Getting used to a CMS – I have students use WordPress (for our student publication as well) which is in essence getting them used to a simple CMS – which they will have to do in any newsroom of the future.
- Engaging with their audience – I require my students to comment on each other’s blogs and instruct that they should respond to comments – ensuring they get used to addressing feedback in a public forum.
- Using multimedia to enhance posts – I have students get more advanced with their blogging across the semester with some creating podcasts, vodcasts or using other multimedia to enhance their posts.
- Get a basic understanding of web design – Students can personalise their blogs using themes, but I also ask for a post which analyses a news site’s design.
- Understanding web analytics – I have students analyse their visitation data at the end of semester and present strategies for increasing visitation – an increasingly important skill in the newsroom.
All in all I think this presents a strong case for having students blog. I have also found that once leaving the university they utilise a blog as a personal resume and marketing tool – showing potential employers that they are engaged in the world in which they want to work.
Check out some of the fabulous blogs from my students this semester: