Citizen journalism, the blogosphere, YouTube, Facebook and more…what do these social networks and new media forms have to do with journalism and mass communications? Often they refer to individuals, rather than traditional media organizations, playing an active role in collecting, reporting and disseminating news.

* For example, students at Northern Illinois University took to the streets writing, shooting photos and blogging during the hours and days that followed the Valentines Day shooting. Kyle Yataes posted a video on UTube, providing more moving coverage of the events than the local news.

Journalism as we know it today is becoming less confined by traditions. Bloggers value informal conversation and expressive writing over objectivity and fairness. However, both have a place in today’s media landscape; these new forms of journalism aren’t competing with traditional journalism as much as providing supplemental information, as we saw in the coverage of the shootings at Northern Illinois University.

We continue to work with our students on balance and context in communications. Teaching basic and advanced skills is more important than ever as the success of media organizations, in large part, rests on credibility. However, faculty members are adding to the mix in a number of important ways.

1. Professor Sam Mwangi and Incubation Innovators:

Students are working with the local newspaper to increase interest in local politics by creating online links with area officials, using the model created in the Knight News Challenge.

2. Professor Kimetris Baltrip and Internet Journalism:

Bill Dedman, Pulitzer Prize Winner, Investigative Reporter for MSNBC.com and founder of Power Reporting taught special segments on Web Research, Computer Assisted Reporting, Using spreadsheets, and How to write complex stories. Both students and faculty benefited from the experience in Dr. Baltrip’s class.

3. Professor Gloria Freeland, Director of Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media:

Greensburg, Kansas is the most recent point of interest. Funds have been established to recreate journalism in the digital era after the town and its media was destroyed by a tornado last spring. Mark Anderson, the editor of the Kiowa County Signal, visited in April to discuss natural and man-made disasters in the digital age.

4. Professor David MacFarland Technology Fund:

A new donor opportunity has been established in honor of Dr. MacFarland to provide students with more digital cameras, light kits, tripods, etc. We will also upgrade the technology in our convergence lab to conform to industry standards.

5. A New Combined Sequence, Journalism and Digital Media:

Students who have interest in either print or electronic media are no longer separated. Courses in convergence will provide students with skills across platforms. However students may still specialize in the medium of their choice ie. print, electronic, magazine, radio, photo, etc.

Growing pains are not uncommon as we move forward, but we know it’s in the best interest of our students and organizations as well because we turn out better-prepared future employees.