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April 23, 2010

St. Mike's Journalism Students Show and Tell

[Ed. note: This post was written by our intern, UVM student Lea McLellan, editor of the weekly campus newspaper, The Water Tower.]

When people tell me that journalism is a dying field, I usually hang my head low, mutter “shut up” under my breath and vow to never friend them on Facebook. But after attending St. Michael’s Journalism and Mass Communication senior seminar showcase, I was able to pick up some convincing comebacks to this claim. The projects represented the work of around 30 St. Mike’s seniors within the Journalism and Mass Communication major. While there was a range of subject matter, a good number of students focused on the Internet’s effect on our social interactions as well as the growth of new media. If these St. Mike’s seniors can represent at least a small slice of the future of journalism, it is clear to me that the field isn’t dying — but it is headed in a new direction.

When asked, most students said that they would like to pursue a career in the journalism field. But “journalism” for students in this major is very broadly defined. Almost everyone I asked also said that they weren’t interested in being a writer in the traditional, print journalism sense. Many students hope to find jobs in web design, film, and other new media outlets after graduation.

While student Jacqueline Cain said that she would like to pursue a career in magazine writing or editing, she also stressed that, “The newsroom grind is a very small part of our education here. As a capstone project they want us to think way past that.” Cain was one of many students who took inspiration for her project from the Internet. She wrote and self-published a book titled Broadcast Yourself: Online Identity and the Culture of Narcissism which featured chapters such as “The Power of Facebook Compels You,” and “One-Stop Gawking.”

If looking beyond the newsroom grind was the goal for these seniors, I would say that most students not only achieved that goal, but also took the concept of a broadly-defined field of journalism to heart. The projects took the form of either a book, a website, or a film. Most people opted for the latter two.

“That’s the beauty of journalism and mass communication," said Andrew Lanoue. "That’s where the new journalism is headed. It’s headed in the direction where you’re not a writer; you’re a producer of news in all forms. It becomes less about writing and more about communication in general. I think this project showed me the most that we have a desire to communicate,”

Lanoue worked with Kristen Fiocco and Andrew Kuzmin to create a documentary titled, Generation Wired: Technology’s impact on human interaction. The film explores how the technology is changing our culture. Specifically, it discusses how high schools are changing their curriculum to adapt to new technologies, the psychological implications of sharing too much information online, as well as how the field of journalism has had to adapt to the rise of social media and the Internet.

“We put a positive spin on it.” said Fiocco. “It’s really easy to say that all of this is bad, but we wanted to educate people on how to use it… we’re not seeing the Internet as a problem, but as a solution.”

The idea of embracing and understanding the Internet instead of fearing its effects on media and American culture seemed to be the general consensus at the showcase. For example, Michelle Chapdelaine, Alex Legere, and Emily Kaas, focused on de-stigmatizing online dating. They explained that despite what people may think, online dating sites aren’t just for the old and desperate. More and more college-aged people are using dating sites to meet other singles. According to them, the Internet is such a powerful force in young people’s every day lives, it is only natural that they're starting to use it as a resource in their love lives.

“College grads are turning to online dating because they don’t know how to date in the real world,” explains Kaas. “We want people to realize it isn’t just a last resort anymore.”

There are a lot of people who would cringe upon hearing that statement, but I have to say that the St. Mike’s student’s positive take on the Internet was refreshing. As Fiocco pointed out, it’s too easy to demonize the Internet. While it’s tempting to blame websites like Facebook and Youtube for our impeding cultural demise, the more difficult and worthwhile task is to figure out how the Internet can be used properly to enhance our culture and improve the media.

“Internet [access] is a human right now, you don’t need the old business model,” said senior John O’Brien. “There is always going to be some place to fit in there. Whether or not you will be making much money is another thing, but it’s a love of the craft I guess.”

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