Toward a More Innovative Research Program and more…

Great panel on analytics at ISOJ.

Great panel on analytics at ISOJ.

This weekend, I attended the wonderful International Symposium on Online Journalism at The University of Texas. It is put on by my friends and people I admire Rosental Alves, Amy Schmitz Weiss and a professional team that assists them. In its 15th year, ISOJ assembles the most innovative in professional and scholarly work in the field of media. I heard from some great organizations and met lots of really cool people.

I was honored to be asked to speak at the Research Breakfast on Saturday morning. It’s a place where scholars can share ideas about projects in the works. Since I have been at Stanford this year, I decided to talk about ways to be more innovative with research by talking about trends in technology we need to address in our scholarship. The presentation is below:

You can look at the presentation, but I focus on things like mobile, data, media platforms, programming, wearables and sensors, location and more. These are trends in the tech industry that we need to be focusing on as they relate to media. Like it or not, this is the industry in which we work and study.
In his presentation later that day, Jay Rosen, of NYU and First Look Media, made some observations about the state of journalism academic publishing, and I agree with him.

We need to figure out ways to bridge this gap so we can be more useful to the industry with our research.There have been some recent articles written about the problems with academic writing. I think one of our roles should be to help lead the way with innovation, as opposed to just studying it after the fact. It’s a dynamic time, and we can’t rely on the lengthy academic publishing cycle to get our ideas out there. There were a few questions in this regard, how we could be more prolific researchers and still be able to achieve tenure. I have some suggestions.

  • Use avenues like Nieman Journalism Lab and MediaShift to experiment with ideas, share with the community and receive feedback.
  • Use Design Thinking to develop research that is meaningful – useful for the public and industry. Make sure the questions we are answering matter. Do your results move our understanding of innovation?
  • Blog about your research. Use tools like Slideshare or YouTube to publish your own work. It won’t count toward tenure in most places, but it will help you gain a following and a personal brand associated with your interest area.
  • Do research on the pedagogy of media. We have new skills to teach, new approaches to develop and new curricula to devise. These processes and outcomes will be important to share.
  • Seek outlets that have better publishing cycles or are more open to innovative ideas. The journal that comes out of the ISOJ conference is great and wants to get research published more quickly.
  • Keep talking about these issues. We need academic departments and universities to understand that we want to do important and valued work. We appreciate the peer-review system, but in its current state, it isn’t effective for the current state of media.

There was a specific question about curriculum, and although that was not the topic of my presentation, I am committed to driving change to a digital media curriculum in our field. Here are several links that trace my thinking on this topic. Personally, I don’t think we have time to wait to make radical curriculum changes. Our students need these digital skills, but more importantly, they need the perspective on the tech industry as it affects media.

We Need a Digital-First Curriculum to Teach Modern Journalism – PBS MediaShift, 8/26/13

From Blog to Glass: Experiential Learning Through SXSW – PBS MediaShift EdShift, 3/27/2014

At the intersection of journalism, data science, and digital media: How can j-schools prep students for the world they’re headed into? Nieman Journalism Lab, 5/26/13

Journalism Schools Need to Get Better at Teaching Tech Where the Girls Are, Oct. 9, 2012

Inspring Students to Believe They “Can Do Anything,” April 18, 2009

Tech-savvy Women Seek Support in Newsroom, Classroom, April 13, 2005

I also wrote a post a few years ago on some books that Communication Scholars could read to move their research and teaching emphases into tech. It could use some updating, but these continue to be some of the most noteworthy titles.

Educating Ourselves, So We Can Teach Our Students, Nieman Reports, Professor’s Corner

We have a lot of work to do in our field, and we need as many people as possible working on the issues we have with both curriculum and academic publishing. I am interested in your comments.

The conference itself was fabulous, hosting people from a range of platforms. Discussions revolved around business models, data and analytics. Check out the coverage on the site. Here are a few observations from myself and others.