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My Walk in Wonderland: ER

February 1, 2011

Ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok.  Enough with the literary stuff.

What do we know—most ironically reported by the media about the media? Life support and last (w)rites are imminent.  Rush the patient to the ER.

The siren song of sirens as the gurney bursts through the doors to bright lights and cutting edge technology.  Why, it’s wonderland, the place to be, in any sort of e-mer-gency.

Too much? Thought so.

I’ve had to settle for a much smaller version of ER.  I call it Eroding Resistance.  A method I’ve had to adopt for the digital natives (print journalists) who inhabit my classes but who seem unable and/or unwilling to bridge the chasm between their everyday online lives on Facebook, Twitter, and the Web and the application of such to journalism.

Most of this resistance is to producing original multimedia, particularly sound and video. The analogy remains simple:  I know how to post a video, but I’m bamboozled by the thought of creating one.  (Yes, it’s the dreaded “student mode,” where intelligent people revert to blanked-out slate status. I bet you’ve seen it, too, where perfectly good writers and reporters can’t seem to identify the lead for the Second Coming.)

Thus, the intervention.  ER baby steps. (Or, in academic-ese, effective pedagogical strategies for knowledge transfer.  Gotta love it.) Build analogies that connect what they can do with what you want them to do. Mark Briggs does a fine job of doing just that in Journalism 2.0, the once-upon-a-time free monograph available as PDF download because funded by the Knight Foundation, that’s still available if you look really hard. Tired already? Ok, go here: Journalism 2.0.  Or, you can opt for the big brother edition (JournalismNEXT) published in 2009.

Briggs points out that editing video and sound relies pretty much on an operation as simple as cut and paste. That is, if you’ve used a computer at all, you have the basic technical skill for editing video and sound.  And if you’ve bought a computer recently, then the software to edit video is already installed or is available as a free download.  Same for audio.

So I give my digital natives the ultimate challenge: If someone as old and un-hip (would a hip replacement cure this?) as I am can do this …

They get the point and short audio and video clips from me to play with.  Then I usually bring in someone with lots and lots of experience editing audio and video to tell them exactly the same things I’ve just told them (meaning, wow, if only she had said this).  Thus, we build to the crescendo—so that I can deflate them by observing (thanks to a certain run of Microsoft commercials) that a 5-year-old can do what they just did.

But what the 5-year-old can’t do is understand the rhetorical application of sound and video to tell journalistically acceptable stories that are, at heart, text-based. And I remind that that when they tell those stories really, really well, they truly change people’s lives.

Cogitate on that, I say.

Maybe Wonderland ain’t so bad after all.

Pat Miller

Valdosta State University

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