CEDAR RAPIDS—Six visitors from Mount Mercy University toured the Gazette and KCRG-TV today, escorted by Editor Lyle Muller.
OK, that headline and lead would be used on a slow news day indeed. During a morning mostly-TV news meeting at the offices of The Gazette, my students and I overheard many ideas pitched as news—our visit not among them. Which is as it should be.
My Introduction to Journalism class visited The Gazette this morning, and Muller kindly led us on our tour.
He’s a good speaker and said many things that I’ve stated in my courses. Among his points:
- An education in journalism can aid students in a variety of careers. A journalist is trained to gather accurate information, to pay attention to details, to format that information in a way that communicates it clearly and quickly and to understand an ethos of openness. Students seems a bit cool to the idea of studying journalism now—not a surprise when the newspaper industry has contracted so publicly—but I think it’s a good time to study journalism, partly because supply and demand are cyclical and “new” skills count for a lot, but also because many journalism students never did enter the newspaper industry anyway. Muller made the valid point that the skills of journalism are flexible and fit a variety of career paths.
- Students who want a communication career should blog. So true—blog now, blog often. As Muller said, “you can build your following.” Blogging is like jogging—a runner runs all the time, not just in races. A writer writes all the time, not just in the paper or an essay or other formal setting. Blogging also puts a student in a “writer” frame of mind. I don’t blog daily, but probably average one post a day between the two blogs I maintain (this one and CR Biker). A writer needs to learn that she never runs out of material if she just pays attention to life, and that, to me, is one of the key reasons students should blog. There is a risk to blogging—whatever you say on the internet is public and permanent—but despite that downside, blogging is a key writing experience and a way to self publish now.
- Newspapers remain the “first draft of history.” Even in this information age, accuracy is key, because papers aren’t just here and gone—they get preserved and become a key tool that those in the future will look back on. When you’re writing history, make it accurate.
Besides those points, another lesson I hope students tuned into is how journalism these days means knowing how to format information for many media. If you aspire to be a TV news anchor, learn to write and blog. If you aspire to be a sports journalism for The Gazette, learn to shoot and edit video, take photos, speak in public—and, by the way, write well, write fast and write accurately. The “basics” are still important, but flexibility of platform is the way the world is moving.
I’ll be interested in debriefing with the students, which won’t happen for a week. But I’ll assert right now that Muller is an excellent tour host—and a fine ambassador for the profession of journalism.