School of thought

Welcome to this week's Reno News & Review.

It's interesting to be back as a student working on a degree a generation after my last serious study at the university. How is it possible that the academic world changed so dramatically in the time it took to raise a child to nearly college age? That change is analogous to the journalism world.

The journalism world is in a state of flux, but it was in the early '90s, too. Digital was just coming on, so the journalism school was flailing trying to adapt its curriculum. We were on the pivot point. The Reynolds school was one of the first journalism schools to have Adobe Photoshop. I worked with a young woman named Heidi (if I remember correctly) to learn that application. At the same time, I took photojournalism and part of that skill was developing black and white film in a darkroom. There were no digital cameras, let alone cell phones. At the same time, I took design (and most of my early time at this paper was as a designer). We used X-ACTO knives and hot wax and counted headlines, one-half for l and one for n. Do you get my point? Cutting edge in the same curriculum as old school.

But now, there's a difference. Everyone knows journalism is changing, but the direction it's going is murkier. These students are still learning old-school skills, but it's old-school 2000-style, convergent media, where journalists have the skills to work in print, on the web, on TV as content providers of words and images.

But where's the future-future? You'd have to be blind not to see that journalism and the internet are going mobile. So where are the app creation classes? Where's the Smart Phone and Tablet Design 363 class?

Don't get me wrong: It's not just the school. It's the profession. We specialized in content provision and abdicated modern skills to specialists—web designers or coders or technologists who have no stake in “journalism”—while we brandished the Bill of Rights like it would ensure us a place in the future.