Old School Learns A New Way

Forbes - - Inside Scoop - By LEWIS D’VORKIN

I was once asked, “What would 25-year- old Lew think about what cur­rent Lew is do­ing?” My an­swer: “I would have been ap­palled.” The busi­ness I’m in to­day looks noth­ing like it did when I was a brighteyed jour­nal­ism stu­dent. Con­sumers want the news on their terms, not the way ed­i­tors think best. Us­ing so­cial media, read­ers can be ed­i­tors and re­porters, too. New forms of ads have also al­tered the game. A few weeks ago I be­gan a stint as a guest Skype in­struc­tor at the Univer­sity of Iowa, my alma mater. Very lit­tle I was taught back then will be part of what I hope to teach a new gen­er­a­tion of as­pir­ing jour­nal­ists.

Don’t get me wrong. For me the mis­sion of jour­nal­ism re­mains the same: to ob­serve, col­lect, in­ter­pret and in­form. In my class­room days so- called ob­jec­tiv­ity was drilled into you. Ac­tu­ally, there is no such thing in news­rooms. We all have bi­ases, con­scious or not. In fact, so­cial media thrives on pas­sion and au­then­tic­ity, so long as it’s rooted in ex­per­tise. But that, as they say, is for another class.

My goal with U of I stu­dents will be to stress prod­uct de­vel­op­ment. News or­ga­ni­za­tions must cre­ate things that au­di­ences want to con­sume and pay for one way or another. I was taught that the story was the thing and that jour­nal­ism was a higher call­ing. Jour­nal­ists now must also un­der­stand it’s a busi­ness like any other.

My rec­om­mended read­ings ( The Fil­ter Bub­ble, Writ­ing on the Wall and The Master Switch) are meant to re­in­force those points. So are cer­tain lec­ture top­ics: When News­rooms and Brand Jour­nal­ism Col­lide; Tech­nol­ogy and the Art of Jour­nal­ism; and Church vs. State: When the Wall Comes Tum­bling Down.

I re­turned to the U of I last Fe­bru­ary for the frst time in 40 years. As I strolled the cam­pus I thought about a pro­fes­sor named Bill Zima, a crusty print pro who stuck by me as I strug­gled to fgure how to get the Five W’s— who, what, when, where and why—into the frst para­graph of a story. What stu­dents must grasp now is alien to them—and to many of their pro­fes­sors, too. Zima him­self would be bafed, but he’d tell me to go re­port the story of change. I’ve been do­ing ex­actly that these past fve years. Now I’m teach­ing it, too.

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