One of my pastimes is looking at articles about how journalism and media companies are becoming tech companies then trying to extrapolate their experience out to what higher education might experience in the coming years. Of course I can acknowledge that journalism and higher education are different in some ways, but at their roots both are fundamentally about communication, and communication as practiced has been in a state of upheaval in the last few decades. Journalism is more dependent on technologies to enable the practice to exist and as such journalists feel the consequence of changes in communication technology much more directly and quickly. So when I saw this piece from Cindy Royal at the Nieman Journalism Lab I pricked up my ears:
If you are a journalism educator or media professional, I have news for you: We work in tech.
in tech, not with tech. I believe Royal is arguing we are moving beyond an era where technology was merely an enabler of the practice of journalism, but actually intrinsically part of what defines those practices.
More from Cindy Royal:
Internet and web technologies don’t just represent a new medium where print and multimedia can live in harmony. The ways we communicate both personally and professionally have been profoundly altered. Communication is technology, and technology is communication. That’s the true convergence.
A big mistake was thinking that the internet was just a more efficient way to carry out the same old workflows. Consider this recent piece from NY Times:
Ask Ezra Klein what prompted him to leave a high-profile position at The Washington Post to start a new website, and the answer is a little wonkish, even for the founder of the newspaper’s Wonkblog, a mix of politics, economics and domestic policy that had become must reading in the Beltway.
It was, in essence, about content management systems, Mr. Klein said.
“We were badly held back not just by the technology, but by the culture of journalism,”
It is interesting to read this as we are starting to discuss issues related to content management systems at Penn State. These things actually matter. It is not a question of picking a commodity tech system from a list of vendors. Your organization can be defined by what your technological systems allow or don’t allow. What it enables and discourages. Does the system professionalize or de-professionalize your creators (journalists or faculty)? Where is it on the spectrum of rigid to flexible?
I started by saying that I have been looking at the dialogue around the transformation of journalism and media companies and using it as somewhat of a signpost to help predict where the dialogue around higher education institutions will be in a few years. Several years ago I catalogued a bunch of dialogue on the subject. Both those items and the pieces I linked to in this post point to a world where technology is a required core competency of a journalism or other media company. I don’t believe many higher ed institutions see technology as a core competency. Does that need to change?