Some journalism schools need to do a better job teaching their students about blog etiquette and copyright law before unleashing them on the blogosphere on a university server.
Over on a blog at UKjournalism.co.uk, the University of Central Lancashire journalism department’s server, someone who I can only presume is a journalism student recently copied and pasted a huge proportion of a story I wrote for Press Gazette, without providing so much as a link.
If this were some anonymous blog hosted on Blogspot, this would be par for the course, and I wouldn’t be complaining. But the blog in question is hosted by a journalism school’s server and presumably authored by someone who is in training to become a media professional. This student presumably has already had at least some training in basic media law.
I would have written this in a private e-mail, but sadly the blog in question provided no details about how to get in touch privately.
In the big scheme of things, this mild annoyance isn’t a big deal — but it’s part of a bigger problem. Guardian tech correspondent and blogger Bobbie Johnson was recently on the receiving end of some rude, ill-informed and unconstructive criticism launched by American journalism students on blogs written as part of a j-school assignment.
That encounter showed that some students fail to distinguish between blogs published in a professional capacity and the sort of semi-private stuff they do everyday on MySpace to communicate with their friends.
Journalism schools need to teach their students that blogs are internet publications like any other. They are public on the internet and can be read by anyone in the world with an internet connection. They are subject to the same media law as any other publication, including libel and fair dealing in copyright.
Moreover, blogs exist as part of the blogosphere, a global subculture with emergent informal social norms and etiquette. Journalists, journalism educators and journalism students need to understand these laws and informal norms before hitting publish.
Just providing a blog and giving insufficient guidance does journalism students no favours. [See clarification below.]
Professional journalists need to demonstrate a greater mastery of these technologies than the average blogger. If journalism students want to mess around on the ‘net, they can always do so on their own time on Blogger or MySpace.
Later: Adam Tinworth responds with a related worry:
[T]he first hurdle I have to get over with teaching journalists to blog is getting over the “online diary/rant” stereotype and getting them to see it as another publishing medium.
There are also some great journo-student bloggers out there. At UCLAN, Nigel (whose last name I don’t know) is my current favourite. He offers some snark in response to this:
The piece puts a good light on the Journalism department as it tells that three graduates from last year have successfully completed their training at the Sun.
I take it you’re not looking for a job at News Group then, Nigel?
Update: Andy points out in the comments that my post seems to suggest that UCLAN is not providing sufficient guidance to its blogging students, and that this is unfair.
He’s right: I can’t infer that from one individual’s action and that I therefore withdraw any suggestion that this is the case at UCLAN.
In the abstract, though, I stand by the post: Journalism students are professionals-in-training, and should publish online accordingly and expect to be held to account. UCLAN bore the brunt of this post because the student wasn’t clearly identified on the post in question. Perhaps the quick answer is to demand real-name posting on j-school blogs. Putting your real name out there has an amazing way of focusing the mind of professionalism.
If you add me to your Twitter friends, you will receive an update by instant messenger or SMS every time I post something to this blog or update something that’s already here. I’d appreciate any feedback on whether this is useful or how it could be improved.
There is a WordPress plugin that updates Twitter when you post something new to a blog. This is my first attempt to use it. If all goes well, I will update this post with more details. If it goes pairshaped, this post will self-destruct in five seconds.
Update: Wot, no TinyURL?
Ah, that’s better. Apologies to all whose mobile phones I may be sending haywire right now.
I watched with trepidation as the “five things” meme wound its way closer and closer towards me — It was really only a matter of time. And of course while I was away for the holidays, both Bryan Murley and Graham Holliday tagged me.
So here, belatedly and with apologies, are the Five Things You Didn’t Know About Me. The first one might interest Bryan:
- Before I was a journalist, I was a sociology student interested in the processes of journalism and news production. My undergraduate honours thesis was a newsroom ethnography of an American college newspaper — The Daily Northwestern. My “fieldwork” in Evanston was carried out during the 1999-2000 academic year, but I made almost no mention of the paper’s web site, so I suspect it’s a fairly dated piece of work already.
- I became interested in journalism on 20 November 1988, when my parents took me, aged nine, to an exhibition about newspapers at the Staten Island Children’s Museum. I know the date with such freakish precision because the following day’s date appears on the fanzine-style “newspaper” I cranked out on my father’s old typewriter that evening.
- I have won three national championships in baseball since 1998. Unfortunately, that’s not saying very much because they were all with the Brighton Buccaneers, who play here in Britain, where baseball is a pretty eccentric sporting pursuit.
- My thumbs are double jointed. Paul Davidson recently described people with this talent thus: “[T]hey can … flick their thumbs out of whack in a weird dance-like rhythm that is both intriguing and nauseating all at once.”
- Like many people, I think Brussels sprouts are the vilest vegetable; just thinking about them invokes my gag reflex. Luckily the seasonal high-risk period for accidentally encountering the hideous mini-cabbages is now drawing to a close.
There. So now who shall I burden with this task? The major disadvantage of waiting ten days to respond to being tagged by a meme is that just about every blogger I read has already played. A quick search of my RSS shows that much of my regular reading list has already succumbed. Amanda Congdon, Jeff Jarvis, Howard Owens, Mindy McAdams, Andy Dickinson, Peter Krasilovsky, Matt Waite, Danny Sullivan, Ryan Sholin, Lucas Grindley, Ethan Zuckerman, Euan Semple, Tim O’Reilly, Anthony Mayfield, Rebecca MacKinnon, K. Paul Mallash, Danny Sanchez have all told us their five things already. Will Sullivan set the bar pretty high with a great two-part response, and Susan Mernitt has a nice roundup of her favourite responses.
Lots of others on my usual reading list have already been tagged but haven’t responded yet. However, it seems Adrian, Neil and Linda have escaped unscathed — so I’m tagging them. And perhaps I can move this out of the incestuous circle of meeja-bloggers by also tagging two of the UK political bloggers you should really be reading, Clive and Tim.
I am currently in a place without broadband, and it’s painful. Even something as simple as checking e-mail is an agonisingly slow experience.
I can hardly believe that I used to use the internet this way all the time.
The way broadband users “waste” bandwidth is another example of the “economics of abundance” that Chris Anderson has been writing about lately. It’s very instructive for those to using the Internet casually and quickly to remember that 56K dialup still the way many (most, in many places) people experience the Internet — it’s a resource to be switched on temporarily, for specific tasks.
The dialup experience is an Internet without social bookmarking, without VoIP, without casually throwing up a quick blog post. RSS newsreaders have to be switched off because they use a prohibitively large chunck of available bandwidth. It’s a time-consuming one-way channel, not a time-saving two-way resource. It sucks.
I’d rather read my news printed on paper or talked at me from a flickering box than via this apalling medium — worth remembering when in evangelical mode.
Blogging here may be light in the next few days…