News Leadership 3.0

November 22, 2008

Weekend reading II

Links: New report on youth Internet use offers important lessons for news organizations

Be sure to check out a “Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project,” a new report that suggests that young people gain significant learning and social interaction online. In addition to the full report, Maryn McKenna lists highlights on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits.

Do these findings bust any stereotypes you’ve harboring? How can you apply them in your news organization?


I was recently discussing this report with some journalists I know. One of them read the report and dismissed is, saying it had nothing to do with news media or how people get news.

I did my best to counter that misperception—but how would *you* respond to that, Michele? And specifically what do you think journos and news orgs can learn from this research?

- Amy Gahran

Thanks Amy. Great question.

First, a general and, yes, testy, response to any journalist who dismisses credible research about how young people use media and access information: Get another career. Leave now. If you are with an established news organization, you are not helping it survive and evolve. If you are on your own, sooner than you think your unwillingness to keep up very likely threatens your livelihood.

As to the specifics of the report, the big takeaway for me was confirmation of the power of online community in the lives of young people. Peer-to-peer learning is significant. Young people are more apt to confer credibility to information and recommendations of peers. Online engagement is often an extension of in-person social life but young people also go online to learn.

This paragraph from the summary caught my eye:
“To stay relevant in the 21st century, education institutions need to keep pace with the rapid changes introduced by digital media.
“Youths’ participation in this networked world suggests new ways of thinking about the role of education. What, the authors ask, would it mean to really exploit the potential of the learning opportunities available through online resources and networks? What would it mean to reach beyond traditional education and civic institutions and enlist the help of others in young people’s learning? Rather than assuming that education is primarily about preparing for jobs and careers, they question what it would mean to think of it as a process guiding youths’ participation in public life more generally.”

Substitute “journalism” or “news” for “education.” Revisit the old ideal of journalism as a way to enrich civic life.

People—perhaps especially young ones—increasingly learn by participating in online networks. So if journalists want to share news and information (the same way education institutions want to teach), shouldn’t they be part of the networks or even provide the platforms? Journalists need to get in the game. And you can only play if you know the rules.

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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

Get in touch with Michele at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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