Professor David Johnson helps USA Today journalists understand how to stay ahead in the rapidly changing new media environment.
Since March 2009, School of Communication (SOC) faculty have been leading a series of training sessions at USA TODAY to help the editorial staff of the nation's most widely-circulated paper develop the skills needed to work effectively on multiple platforms.
The school has worked with top editors to create a three-day session that addresses the changes in content development and work flow that a web-first environment has created. Among the AU professors and their classes:
Amy Eisman, director of AU’s writing programs and weekend graduate program, led a discussion of best practices on the web and the guidelines USA TODAY and other companies are forming as technology evolves.
Bill Gentile, a former still photographer for Newsweek who is an award-winning video journalist, taught a Backpack Journalism™ segment on video storytelling.
David Johnson, whose AU classes provide all the content for the online weekly The Observer, introduced new online tools and ways to use social media to reach readers.
As part of the training, the journalists used Twitter, a blog and video cameras to provide on-going coverage. This hands-on element not only improved the journalists’ skills with these tools, it also provided the class an insight into how participants reacted to them, sparking good discussions. “The discussion and the analysis of the way we do things and what needs to change was so eye opening,” one journalist said.
The reviews from USA Today staff have exceeded expectations.
Evaluations showed the staff has appreciated and benefitted from each of the five, three-day sessions. One staffer wrote: “The discussion and the analysis of the way we do things and what needs to change was and is always eye opening.” Another noted, “Professionally I was inspired to use the content to seek out new and better ways to do my job.”
“The feedback we have gotten has exceeded my expectations,” said USA TODAY Network Managing Editor Chet Czarniak. “Clearly, the program is exposing our staff to new ideas and approaches to their jobs.”
“This collaboration with USA TODAY demonstrates the significant role AmericanUniversity’s School of Communication is playing as a laboratory, shaping new professional roles, media strategies and innovative content. We are working closely with the major organizations of the news industry to navigate this emerging landscape and re-define the role of journalists and journalism in the Web 2.0 and 3.0 world,” said Larry Kirkman, Dean, AU School of Communication.
With its sector-leading faculty, partnerships with media leaders such as USA TODAY initiatives such as the Center for Social Media, J-Lab: the Institute for Interactive Journalism and the Investigative Reporting Workshop, American University’s School of Communication is being viewed by media analysts as the center for new journalism in the United States.
While USA TODAY may have been the first to benefit from the unmatched new media expertise provided by SOC faculty, the school is planning similar opportunities for other media outlets.