Building A New Audience

Howard Schneider, the former editor of Newsday and founder of the School of Journalism at Stony Brook University, said most journalists ignore one major issue and part of their job – educating the consumers about media. To combat this issue, Schneider and his colleagues created a 14-week news literacy course that has been getting high reviews from students of communication and non-journalism students.

The purpose? To build an audience of citizens – what journalism has always needed and will continue to need in the future especially with movement towards free-lance bloggers and Web journalists.

The course, which stresses topics of objectivity, fairness, sources, and navigation of the Web, provides students with the importance of news and what and why journalists do what they do.

This understanding is especially important as there have been trends that show a downturn in civic events, newspaper readers, knowledge about America and its democracy and current events. By reaching the students, be they journalism students or members of the public, at an important time could create optimism and restore credibility to the industry.

This news-literacy is a large part of media-literacy movement as Temple professor Renee Hobbs said, “It’s irresponsible to focus on the relations between reporters and sources and news value without positioning all of that in a larger context that has to do with increasing competition, the question of revenue streams, and the like.”

While media-literacy does have the commercial aspect in it, news-literacy teaches students excellence and what separates one story from another in quality. The thought is by teaching those about quality journalism, people will want to consume journalism which ultimately affects media-literacy.

When journalists engage the public, there will be much more civic action and a call to hold journalist responsible for their work.

Schneider’s model seems to be working on the small scale of educating society one-by-one. For the future of news- and media-literacy, let’s hope we see more courses like these pop-up in the future to further shape the future of the new industry.

Garber, M. (2009). Leap of faith: Inside the movement to build an audience of citizens. Columbia Journalism Review, 48(2), 41-45.

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