A new semester of teaching Journalism 121: Advanced Writing and Reporting has begun with a crop of particularly talented students. I’ll need to make sure they are appropriately challenged. One of the things I’m rethinking this time is the Twitter assignments I give the students. In JOUR 121, the students use Storify to curate stories, and I’m pretty happy with that. But across all my journalism courses, they need to learn several things in regards to Twitter.
1. Pitfalls in usage. I still have students who are using accounts that are inappropriate as their public face. Even if they aren’t posting about getting drunk, students need to realize that if they’ve attached their full name to their account, their posts (including photos) need to be “scrutiny ready” by potential employers. What’s more, they should be aware of the ethical guidelines different media outlets are crafting for social media usage.
2. What to tweet. Recently, I sent The Skyline View newspaper staff on a Twitter “scavenger hunt.” I tweeted out directions through my @skylinejour account, things such as “Tweet a photo of one beautiful spot on campus and tell us where it is” or “Tweet one thing #skylinecollege students need to know right now.” What was interesting about the assignment is that we still have staffers resistant to using Twitter, even though it’s become de rigueur in journalism and connects so crucially with mobile reporting skills. That’s a sign to me that I have to provide more instruction on and exposure to Twitter.
3. Full utilization. If the students are only asking themselves what they should tweet, they haven’t tapped into Twitter at full strength. When they think Twitter, they ought to be utilizing it for story ideas and contacts. They should be considering new ways to report. (Think @ACarvin. Think Vine.) They should be on the look out for mentors and journalists whose work they admire. They should be following accounts that tweet scholarship, internship and job opportunities. They should consider how they want to brand themselves online.
But first I need to convince them that Twitter is worth their while. I’ll be thinking about this and experimenting with different ways to get them on board this semester. And as I do, I hope to keep track of my progress here.