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Quandaries of a Journalism Director

October 4, 2012

Michael Bugeja, director,
Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication,
Iowa State University of Science and Technology


Sometimes journalism administrators sit in their offices thinking, pondering, worrying.

Often we worry about things that never will happen. We seldom share those thoughts. Leaders are supposed to be certain.

The best leaders, however, deal with quandaries.

That is what I am doing today.

Here’s the thing: We teach students with smart phones. Those devices contain all manner of traditional media: broadcast studios, audio-visual libraries, cameras, newsrooms, telephones, telegraphs (texting), animation companies, design suites, archives and, most important, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google.

We remind students about local events because we subscribe to community newspapers. Our students, and some of our colleagues, do not.

We embrace the news philosophy of “Local, Local, Local.” This is important in community journalism. That’s where the jobs are. At least for now.

We were told to use technology to engage hometowns. Circulation would rise, and we will have monetized the Internet.

We have been monetizing the Internet for more than a decade. In 2002, news consumers were in home offices on desk-top computers. Then they bought laptops and became more mobile. Then iPads. Now smart phones.

We have no idea where they are or what they are doing.

Technology collapses time and space. Those dimensions define locality. Technology circumvents them. Its goal is global. Its purpose is to transport us out of locality.

If that is true, why are doing “Local, Local, Local” when many of us don’t know who lives next door or on our block?

What do we do anymore that is local? We shop, mostly for food. Some of us go to church, temple, mosque. We recreate a few hours on weekends. We accompany children to events and see their teachers once every term on parent-teacher night. We vacation a few weeks each year. We go to hospital on occasion. We see specialists.

And we multitask doing those activities.

How much time do you spend each day in your hometown? How much time do your students spend in the community? Do you have the courage to challenge the status quo and devise a long-range plan that will assure graduates jobs in the digital age?

Challenge the conventions. In technology. In education. That is what it is going to take to be a leader in the digital age.

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