If you could wave a magic wand to bestow one gift on young journalists, what would it be? That’s a provocative question, given journalism today.
Professor Richard Craig will address this topic as the guest speaker for San Jose State’s Annual Authors Awards on Oct. 28.
His new book, “News Writing and Reporting: The Complete Guide for Today’s Journalist,” covers every aspect of news gathering including online journalism.
Acknowledging academic contributions
The Annual Authors Awards honor all faculty and staff members and administrators who have authored, co-authored or edited books.
For more information about the books being honored, go to the SJSU Scholarworks, an institutional repository that preserves copyright and intellectual property ownership while increasing access to scholarly output.
We invited Craig, of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, to talk to us about writing coaches, Yahoo’s latest moves, and how he would use that magic wand.
SJSU Today: Everyone knows what a football coach does. What about a writing coach?
Craig: The difference between a traditional editor and a coach is that editors change things they believe are wrong, while coaches work with writers so they learn where they can improve. In a university setting, we do lots of coaching, but it also happens in professional newsrooms these days.
SJSU Today: Talk to me about online journalism. What’s the most important thing to teach right now on this subject?
Craig: In online journalism, it’s important to be thorough and versatile. There’s an avalanche of information online, much of which is uninformed opinion masquerading as fact. This means that good reporters have to be more vigilant than ever in verifying information before they publish it. Versatility is also vitally important because with the ever-evolving nature of online news, you never know what you might be asked to do next. It could be anything from shooting video to blogging to monitoring certain Twitter feeds to covering a city council meeting. You need to have the right skills and mindset to adapt to new demands and technologies.
SJSU Today: Just a few days ago, we all learned Yahoo stole David Pogue from The New York Times. Thoughts? What’s the take away for your students?
Craig: Journalism isn’t just practiced at traditional media outlets anymore. People have gotten accustomed to getting information from so many different places that journalism is becoming more about each story itself and less about the outlet’s brand name.
SJSU Today: Tell me about how the renovated Spartan Daily newsroom will help students compete in the online world.
Craig: Too often here at SJSU we’ve been defined by what we can’t do, frequently because of budget issues. Our students on the Spartan Daily would produce content every day in spite of broken computers, printers and cameras that we couldn’t afford to replace. Students would waste time waiting to use the one functioning layout computer, and given that they almost all have jobs outside of school, this was time they couldn’t afford to waste. This made it very hard to compete with journalism programs at some of the more well-funded schools in the area, both in contests and in recruiting the most talented prospective students.
The new newsroom gives our students the chance to be much more productive and creative. The new equipment not only allows students to complete tasks more quickly and easily, but also supports the newest software, which gives them the chance to create cutting-edge multimedia content that can compete with any college media outlet in the nation.
SJSU Today: What is the most important thing you learned from your students and from the working reporters you interviewed for the book?
Craig: I learn important stuff from my students all the time. The Spartan Daily primarily exists to serve the student body, and as hard as I might try, it’s difficult to remain tuned in to their concerns when you’re their parents’ age. The Daily students live in this environment every day and can separate issues that really matter to their contemporaries from minor complaints.
The reporters interviewed for the book were great because in most cases, they’re still out there in the world reporting stories every day. We can try to replicate real-world situations in the classroom, but talking to professionals always revitalizes me and provides valuable new examples and experiences. It’s why I try to bring in working journalists every semester to talk to the Daily students.
SJSU Today: If you could wave your magic wand and bestow one gift on journalism students and instructors, what would it be (besides your book!)?
Craig: I would tell students and instructors to get out there in the world and observe, then share what you find. To make a meaningful contribution as a journalist (or as a human being in general), you need to get out of your room, remove your earbuds, turn off the phone and soak up what you see and hear. Talk to people who are different from you, and go to areas that take you out of your comfort zone. The best tool for any kind of learning is a set of fresh eyes, and you don’t get those through living in a bubble.