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Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists


The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom.

When Faith Miller wanted to study journalism in college she didn't realize how hands-on the experience would be.

“I did not expect that in school I would be reporting on real stories and I did not know how much work goes into it,” she said.

Unlike their counterparts of past generations, students at the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Journalism learn to deliver news across all platforms, including television, radio and the Web. And that’s not all, said Willow Bay, director of the School of Journalism.

“Today we expect journalists to be able to use all sorts of technological tools to research stories, to vet that research, to analyze that research. We expect them to be fluid in multimedia storytelling skills. We expect them increasingly to be their own marketing and distribution arms, to get their stories in front of audiences and to spread those stories as far as they can,” said Bay.

Newsroom environment

They learn all those skills in a brand new media center, built like a modern newsroom. There is a circular assignments desk in the middle of the center, with television monitors overhead broadcasting on different channels.

More than 90 workstations are spread out around the room where student journalists who work on TV, radio and the Web collaborate side-by-side.

Digital Journalism Professor Robert Hernandez said future journalists must also be tech-savvy, and that meant learning basic computer programing languages.

“They need to know how the Web works and be able to tinker with it,” he said.

Hernandez demonstrated some of the modern tools Web reporters could use to tell stories in a different way.

“You can do a 360 panorama through your phone. We can talk about what a tornado looks like, how it rips trees out of the ground. Through their phone there’s an app [application] that stitches them together,” he said.

Students can also take a class that experiments with Google Glass, a device that connects to the Internet and records video and audio.

Will Federman, a print and digital journalism student, said, “I think we’re entering a market now where if you don’t have kind of a wide range of skills and have a little bit of knowledge on everything, you’re probably going to have a difficult time finding a job.”

Ethics challenges

The goal is not just to prepare students for the real world but to also make them savvy enough to adapt quickly to changing technology.

With new technology comes new ethical questions, however, and future journalists should tread carefully, according to the media center's executive director, Serena Cha.

"In the journalism arena we’ve got to consider carefully. How do we teach students to use the tools responsibly? Yes, new technology often raises new questions because you’re able to manipulate reality even more than before,” said Cha.

Faculty members said at the core of all this technology, students still needed to learn traditional journalism: how to write and tell a compelling story that is accurate, fair and balanced.

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