New school, meet old school

Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.

Did I mention I’m teaching a class up at the university this semester? I’m having a blast, not because the class objectives or experience levels were described to me very precisely, but because the students have even less experience than I expected.

In certain ways, I’m training the future writers for this newspaper. I already see talent in some of my students, which lends credence to the argument that journalists are born, not made.

Oh, but they can be made, too. And when I work with new journalists here at the paper, recent college graduates, lots of times they have problems identifying and talking to unfamiliar sources, writing on assignment (not stories of their own choosing), and knowledge of English and Associated Press style (newspaper grammar).

So, the university put the nut in charge of the inmates, and guess what my students are doing? Learning good, solid reporting skills. I’ve got them going out and doing person-on-the-street interviews, writing articles on deadline (using historic news stories), writing in AP style, reporting on assignment. Watching their nearly vertical learning curve excites me, which I hope translates to them. Journalism is fun. It’s challenging and gets us out of our comfort zones, but it’s fun.

The last time I taught a class, some of the students didn’t develop as I hoped they would, and now I attribute it in part to the fact that they were seniors—they already thought they knew “journalism” because they’d gone through four years of schooling in the discipline. It’s related to that idea that as soon as your brain believes it “knows” something, it moves on to other things. Sometimes, that’s what we mean by closed-mindedness.

Well, I’m opening up my mind because I know little about teaching. There are many things that I know little of, but I’m really enjoying getting to know a bit more about the 20-somethings who inhabit the campus across the freeway from our offices.