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International Applications of Convergence Education

Posted by Melissa Berman on September 12, 2008

At 12:15 p.m. September 11, 2008 several attendees of the Missouri School of Journalism Centennial gathered in the Fred W. Smith Forum in the Reynolds Journalism Institute. The topic of discussion was the International applications of convergence education. Lynda Kraxberger, Convergence Journalism Faculty-Missouri School of Journalism, moderated the discussion. The discussion leaders included: Yuen-Ying Chan, Director and Professor at The University of Hong Kong and Dean of the Cheung Kong School of Journalism and Communication-Shantou University, China; Martin Hirst, Associate Professor, Curriculum Leader-Journalism Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand; Mike McKean, Director, Futures Lab, Associate Professor, Convergence Journalism-Missouri School of Journalism, Olga Missiri, Video Editor-Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute; Ernest Yuyan Zhang, China Program Coordinator, International Programs-Missouri School of Journalism.

Dr. Chan began the discussion by describing how she started her program in China. There is more difficulty in developing the program in China versus the U.S., but the University of Missouri Journalism School has been a great help. During the first year in the program in China students are taught to embrace technology and learn the basics right away.

Ernie Juang discussed the process of setting up professional programs in China. Media convergence (the fusion of innovations) is on the rise, and the Chinese see it changing in the U.S. They have asked the U.S. to share theses ideas with them and help with the intersection between websites and TV stations, websites and print, etc. Journalists are still adapting to having a 24-hour newsroom, and for some, the idea of posting on the internet. In the past, some saw posting on the internet as a chance for others to steal their work.

Martin Hirst then discussed the Auckland University of Technology, which is the biggest journalism program in New Zealand (consisting of only seventy students). He is in the process of trying to change the program there to include more technology instruction and to allow the students to have a broader education of all areas of journalism.

The problems with teaching technology and journalism are universal. There are constantly new forms of communication being used and everyone seems to be chasing them to try and teach them in their courses. The trouble also, is to teach all of these new forms of media and technology while still covering the basic principles of journalism. There is only so much that can be taught in four years.

Olga Missiri spoke about the fact that in schools in Russia and other countries in Eastern and Western Europe it takes a lot of time and effort to change curriculum and programs. Another big factor in trying to teach new technology and media is that most of Russia only has dial-up access to the internet.

Mike McKean went on to give a few definitions of convergence journalism. One definition or slogan used by the Missouri Convergence Journalism program is “Telling compelling stories no matter what it takes.”  This entails the use of any type of media outlet to convey a story. Convergence is also a team-based effort.

The discussion went on to talk about the many problems and challenges of convergence and technology education. Hirst mentioned one of the toughest steps is to be able to convince colleagues that change in the education program is needed. Chan has started a cadet program at her school, the only issue is the university hiring method. Another issue Missiri came across while teaching at Stephens College, a womens school, was that many of the women in her class are not used to being the ones in control and using all aspects of the cameras and computers. Hirst also mentioned the need to get away from the traditional classroom teaching model. He believes that the classrooom should consist of learning, not teaching.

With convergence education, the culture of journalism is changing. There are constantly new media outlets, and journalists are being asked to perform skills in several different aspects of journalism. Young journalists are beginning to come into jobs as managers over veteran journalists as a result of their ability to use new technology. Almost every newspaper now has a website with video media and other forms of journalism rather than strictly print. Another issue that arises with this change in journalism is the need for speed and accuracy. There are going to be a lot more mistakes made and less thorough stories because the newsroom is now twenty-four hours.

The discussion wrapped up with each leader giving their view of the future of journalism. Hirst believes that in twenty years we will no longer be teaching journalism, but training digital gate keeping. Instead of searching for the news, we will just be fact checking citizen journalists. Everyone will need to be taught basic journalism skills. Missiri talked about the issue of being a jack of all trades, but a master at nothing. We need to find a balance in the education and knowledge of different focuses in journalism. Zhang followed up with the idea that we need to still have a set focus in journalism education, but be able to cultivate that focus with everything else. McKean referred back to the idea that convergence journalism is team based. No one has all of the answers, but globally we can combine and learn from each other.

The discussion then ended with a short question and answer session.


One Response to “International Applications of Convergence Education”

  1. Thanks for this, a great summary of the session. Well done. We asked a lot of questions, but didn’t provide any solid answers. it was a great discussion though.

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