From Print to Posts
Journalism and mass communication students are taught early on that social media and digital mediums are a cornerstone for journalistic content today. Their professors show them how to tailor a story specifically for an online audience and that having a large online presence is key to being a good journalist.
This “online presence” is a relatively new idea, only possible when the web was widely available roughly 20 years ago. In the short time the internet has been alive, it has shaped our culture as we know it and made print culture a thing of the past.
Professor Emeritus Kenneth Starck, SJMC director for 17 years between 1975 and 1996, headed the school’s curriculum before, during, and after the initial digital boom.
“I knew that digital journalism was going to take off,” Starck said, “just not as quickly as it did.” For Starck, this meant the School of Journalism would have to start steering the curriculum in the digital direction. He remembers the day the school changed its name to include mass communications.
“We had to change the name to encompass what was happening.” Starck said. “It was no longer just a school of journalistic writing. We had to show students how to communicate on a grand scale.”
In 2017, the foundation for SJMC students is still the same. Students need to be able to write well and understand journalism law and ethics. The digital aspect however, is now a necessity. Associate Professor David Dowling, director of undergraduate studies, teaches multiple classes on media and digital studies.
“News is a global medium now,” Dowling said. “Even if a story is in a small local newspaper, it can be reached in an instant anywhere in the world.” The curriculum now is dedicated not only to teaching students about digital media, but how and why that digital media works.
“Our students leave here with the tools, knowledge, and ethics to go out into the world and be amazing storytellers on all platforms,” Dowling said. “It makes me happy to know that I am a part of that.”
The Digital and Gaming Culture
Dowling’s course, “Digital and Gaming Culture,” takes a headfirst approach to studying how the digital culture became the phenomena it is today. It explores everything from the rise of YouTube stars to how a once “socially awkward” activity like video gaming has become a means for social interaction around the world.
The digital age gives way to new mediums frequently, and everyone is racing to get that digital audience first. With the countless ways of communicating in the palm of our hands, the age J brings a whole new style of journalism that tailors to audiences reading on their digital devices. This is where Dowling’s class comes in: He takes his students on a journey through the digital culture that we know today—or think we know.
“If you don’t understand the gaming community, you don’t understand the dominant community online,” Dowling said.
The class takes an in-depth look at how online audiences work, and he teaches the techniques to better reach these audiences. The class also studies the most dominant online community, video gaming culture.
“If you don’t understand the gaming community, you don’t understand the dominant community online,” Dowling said. “It is important to know the medium of gaming because of its presence on the web. This audience knows the online world better than anyone.”
Video gaming is not the only type of gaming examined in the course. The class also takes in to account reality TV gameshows like “Survivor” and “The Apprentice.” “As human beings, we have a fascination with gaming culture,” Dowling said. “It’s no surprise that something like video gaming has taken on such a huge audience online.”
Since the digital revolution started, it has not slowed down. We have access to a world of information at our fingertips. The internet has made communicating both easier and more difficult at the same time. New challenges online will emerge, and it is important that students better understand the online world and use it to their advantage.