Post-secondary broadcast journalism programs are facing a significant challenge incorporating social media education in their programs. That was the premise for a panel discussion of which I was a participant alongside Bob Ledrew and Kady O’Malley a few weeks ago at the BEAC2012 conference in Ottawa. It was a full and invigorating conversation. In the hopes of inspiring a conversation here, I’m going to share just two of the points I raised during the panel.


The tendency is to treat social media as a separate entity. That may have been the practice many years ago; and may still be the practice for many programs. The new reality is digital media, of which social media is a key part, is pervasive and must be part of the ecosystem including research, outreach, engagement, promotion and, yes, even broadcast. So, the relative purpose of social media tools should be incorporated into the curriculum for each specific course. So, Ryerson University‘s JRN 124 Elements of Feature Writing, for example, needs to teach writing for the web on a variety of platforms including news websites, blogs, Twitter, Google+, etc… Similarly, their JRN 125 Introduction to Video & TV Journalism should incorporate YouTube (and other video platforms), Facebook, Twitter, etc…

[UPDATE: I’m not suggesting Ryerson’s program hasn’t adopted this approach. I’m using their journalism course names as an example in my post.]


The exception to the rule is digital culture. In the same way JRN 123 Ethics and Law in the Practice of Journalism is discreet course in Ryerson’s Journalism program, digital culture needs specific treatment to help students understand online etiquette, the nature of online interactions, copyright and licensing, sourcing, research, relationship building, trust and crisis management.

The same is true of curation. Successful journalists and media organizations have developed strong capabilities in content curation — not just the reuse of existing content (owned or third-party), but in adding context and additional relevance for the public. At the CPRS 2012Leap conference in February, Melanie Coulson of the Ottawa Citizen pointed out that Facebook Timeline is a phenomenal tool for curating archival content, giving it new context and meaning for local communities who can interact with stories.


What are your thoughts about digital and the new era of journalism education? How do you see journalism programs evolving to prepare the students of today into the journalists of tomorrow?

Photo: BEAC 2012 Session on Social Media and Educators uploaded to Flickr by BEACanada.