The responsibility of learning

I always find the Pew Research Centre data fascinating – the information is all based on US findings, of course, but it’s a wonderful insight into the way people think (and, given the right technology, operate). 

The latest one – Learning in the Digital Age – is no exception. It’s packed with stats and graphs, although my personal favourite slide is this one:

74% of smartphone users are sharing where they are and what they are doing there. A later slide says 52% of adults are on social networks (I would have probably guessed higher, probably due to my own bias)  
If mainstream media organisations can’t find a way to tap into these people – collaboratively, editorially and commercially – we may as well pack up and go home. Although some of the information pertains to libraries and librarians, it inevitably has resonance with me as a journalist. 
Like this slide 

From a media point of view, you could say “We report best passively…” has been replaced by “We report best actively” – the engagement, collaboration and transparency that newsrooms should strive for is just the same. 
And, taking the last part of the sentence into consideration, I believe we should manage our own learning. 
Training is vital, and no one should be expected to be able to produce edited video without having some idea of how to go about it but when it comes to learning about social media, data tools, mapping, sharing, online tools that make doing the job or telling the story easier/better/richer – from Audioboo to Zemanta– there is a responsibility to keep up with what’s happening.  

Learning on the job is part of the job. Whether it’s listening to colleagues, reading tech blogs, following interesting people on Twitter (it even suggests who you should follow now, after all) or Quora, asking questions…. learning about the new tools of the trade comes down to putting your journalist abilities into good use.
After all, it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. 

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Universal journalist prototype

The pros and cons of shorthand for journalists is a question that seems to vex j-students up and down the UK, as I discovered when Tom Rouse asked me for my view recently. 
As our conversation continued on Twitter and others joined in I learned that a) shorthand was essential b) shorthand  was not essential and c) North America isn’t as enamored with shorthand as the UK.
So, that’s less than conclusive. Personally, I think it’s necessary to have a benchmark standard and 100wpm shorthand does offer that but I think ruling out everyone who doesn’t have it is pretty short-sighted to.  
Tom’s article is here; I think that possibly the best advice I’d be able to give would be this: If I were a student shopping for journalism courses right now, and wanted to go into mainstream media, I’d pick one with shorthand and bust my chops to get 100wpm. 
Once you have that piece of paper no one can take it from you and many editors will not consider anyone who doesn’t have it. But… I think that within 5 years this will no longer be the case, and shorthand will be with the ‘nice to haves’.

I know award-winning journalists with shorthand and without; editors who insist on it, and editors who take pride in clambering the slippery slope without ever troubling a dipthong. 
Such dichotomies are of no use to would-be reporters considering courses though. 
But I’d have more concerns about the journalistic attitude of an interview candidate who couldn’t talk – with enthusiasm and authority – about sourcing, verifying and creating content. That sort of thing is a lot harder to learn – and time-consuming to teach. 
Frankly, my universal journalist prototype gets tweaked all the time but, in addition to having a mind that was basically one big question mark, I’d want them to be a bit like this…

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