Where USF faculty, students and graduates are invited to talk about journalism and its problems and opportunities. This blog is not affiliated with the University of San Francisco, nor is the university responsible for any of the opinions expressed herein -- though it is certainly responsible for the people who entertain those opinions, having educated them. They make us proud.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

USF Alumni Journalism Panel Gets Four Stars

Here's some pix.

And Tiffany's account from eweek.com

Thursday, October 18, 2007 3:01 PM/EST

Back in my day...

A couple nights ago, I sat on a "Journalism in the 21st Century" panel at my alma mater, the University of San Francisco. Myself, and seven other alums faced roughly 30 bright-eyed, aspired student journalists, hungry to be the next bulldog reporters, scooping, analyzing, and shaping the content of their (and our) generations.

Ok, so they actually looked kinda bored, and in hindsight, it's probably because we were telling them a lot of what they already knew.

Yes, we dared to stress the importance of tech savvy on kids practically nursed on webcasts, podcasts, blogs, YouTube, Wikipedia, etc. etc.

Now that I think about it, the kids are the ones who should have been seated on the panel, and us fogies should have been listening to them, letting them school us on the meaning of media in the 21st century.

Instead, we rattled on about being oh, so versatile in this tech-driven world. Even print journalists should be comfortable in front of cameras. Be podcast and webcast savvy. Know how to post online. We explained the significance of blogs likening it to the importance of brushing their teeth after meals and looking both ways before crossing the street.

Though not a single one of us had yet cracked 40, to these kids, we were dinosaurs; the equivalent of a mimeograph machine and Betamax.

As if these kids didn't host their own regular podcasts or already have footage posted on YouTube. Now some of them did raise their eyebrows when the validity of Wikipedia was challenged, but I digress.

Honestly, it only became heir apparent to me just how much that 21st century media, an enormous and voracious confluence of content, is pushing old-timers like me, in their 30s, to dramatically reshape our views on how media and information works. We're the ones racing to keep up, while they simply take the wild ride in stride.

A few days later I was chatting with Taylor, a hip young lady majoring in art history at USF, nearly 10 years her senior, telling her how myself and a few colleagues lamely explained the significance of technology to 20-somethings (possibly even 18 and 19-somethings).

Her response was interesting.

Though I expected her to laugh, she said the she and her pals tend to take that stuff for granted, you know, the fact that they have all these advantages at their fingertips, tools that essentially can launch their careers right now. Unlike me, who left college without even a proper resume, Taylor and her peers will leave college with blogs, short movies, online portfolios, or heck, even new start-ups to shop around. And heavens knows the number of social networking sights available, keep these newbies tightly aligned with one another, giving all new meaning and depth to the age-old mantra of "it's not what you know, it's who you know."

In fact, what really seemed to be missing from their media edification was the art of story telling. One young lady had no idea what a "nut graph" was. For all you non-journalists, it's the single most important paragraph a story can have; the who, what, when, where, and why.

They perked up when Jennifer Jolly, a veteran broadcaster on CNN and KTVU talked about being held at gunpoint her first few months on the job, or how I managed to engage the wrath of an entire police department after publishing a piece lambasting them for racial profiling practices. Or the day I sat with an elderly schizophrenic in her assisted-living room, as part of a pilot project that attempted to at once build independence and companionship for her and people like her.

Funny, they have the most sophisticated tools at their fingertips for building the most intelligent content, and to do so immediately, yet, still need to nudge of knowing how knowing how to tell it and what to tell.

So we were their premature grandparents, regaling them with stories that took place back in the day, and most likely exaggerating and romanticizing some of the circumstances. It's not the worst role in the world to have. It was kind of fun, and maybe it means I can retire early and get my Bingo club on Facebook.

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