The time to use new technology in journalism conferences is now

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest writer is Pierce Presley, self-proclaimed “Emperor of the Pierce Presley Web Empire,” and a newspaper guy frantically trying to learn new media skills. You can follow him on Twitter at @piercepresley.

By Pierce Presley

pierceI’m in the final semester of my masters program, and I’m working on a capstone professional project that will create a website to give traditionally trained journalists new media skills, so forgive me if I get a little “meta” on you and talk about journalism training. Derek Willis talked in a relatively recent blog post about the future of training offered by Investigative Reporters and Editors, a great organization that he and I recommend journalists join even if their job description doesn’t mention “investigate.” He relates how many people paid their own way to the IRE Conference last year—a sign of how much members value the organization surely, but worrisome because that’s a well that’ll run dry rather quickly—plus how antiquated the several arms of IRE’s training output are, and suggests using video, screencasts, podcasts, YouTube and even the nascent Google Wave as successors. (I think he misses a rather obvious way to update the tipsheet method of spreading knowledge: wikis.)

And while I agree that we should bring to bear any and all of these technologies when they are appropriate to the knowledge being shared, there’s another boat that IRE, the Society of Professional Journalists, and probably most other journalism organizations are missing: virtual conferences.

Anybody who’s been anywhere near the planning and preparation end of a conference knows they’re hell to put on. Between lining up the venue, corralling the speakers, finding food and drink, etc. ad naseum, these things are a testament to the dedication of those who put them on. And all that is for naught if people can’t afford either the time or the money to attend.

But what if there was free or low-cost ways to beam speakers to far-flung attendees, complete with audio, video, PowerPoint and document sharing, and record a copy of the presentation for those who couldn’t “attend” in person? Wouldn’t it be worth the time and the effort to learn the new tech, to find people to present in this new way and to make good journalism training available online?

There is, and of course it would. I’ve attended webinars held by the Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, and they have been excellent (I learned a lot of useful things, even if I’m not entirely sold on being a business journalist nor a journalistic entrepreneur). Setting up a dozen or two of these wouldn’t be 12 or 24 times harder than doing just the one, and the payoff would be immense.

The thing is, journalism organizations and schools need to start working on this now. Because the longer they wait to offer good, modern content, the more journalists are going to turn away from them and their overpriced, under-rewarding meetings in meatspace. And that will likely mean erosion of the membership rolls, too. That those who can attend will have a definite new-media feather in their cap for the resume (and so will the presenters and organizers) is just a bonus.

IRE, SPJ, everybody trying to teach journalists how to do their job better: start now. Don’t let yourself or anyone tell you that you or the technology aren’t ready yet. As Seth Godin said in Tribes, the enemy of progress isn’t “no.” It’s “not yet.”

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2 Responses to “The time to use new technology in journalism conferences is now”

  1. The police office in Tucson, Ariz. has launched uncooked online video footage from the digital camera police officer Joel Mann was donning when he brutally pummeled a feminine university student who was going for walks innocuously just off the campus of the College of Arizona.

  2. Ellen says:

    These topics are so coinsunfg but this helped me get the job done.

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