Want to take Participatory Journalism? Here’s what you need to know.

Note: This has been updated for folks interested in the class for Summer or Fall 2013.

“Engagement” is a buzz word in journalism these days. But what does it really mean? And how does it get incorporated into daily news?

In J4700/7700, Participatory Journalism, students become part of the community outreach team at the Columbia Missourian. They all get experience with social media, analytics, identifying audience, being ambassadors for the newsroom, crowdsourcing and comment moderation. They learn how to make the news more social and conversational, how to ask questions people want to answer, and how inviting participation with the news is a key step in staying relevant as news providers.

I started to gather some of what we’ve been doing with the #CoMoSnow in February, but I ‘ve been too busy doing the journalism to explain what we’ve done so far. Here’s a column that our boss, Tom Warhover, wrote about some of it.

Sound like stuff you’d like to have on your resume and in your portfolio of work? Here’s what you should know before asking for a consent number.

Here’s a link to this semester’s syllabus, which is in a google doc because it’s always a work in progress.
Here’s a link to a diagram I made of what we cover.
Here’s a dated but still maybe useful blog post about what the team did in its first semester, Fall 2011.

The fact that a blog post from a year ago is dated should tell you something about how our team works. It’s constantly evolving. It’s a giant experiment. “Because we did it that way last time” is pretty much never a reason for doing it that way again. We’re constantly assessing the effectiveness of what we’re doing, tossing out ideas that aren’t working and inventing new strategies to try (something journalists need to know how to do).

As part of the team, you’d be assessed on how well you participate in and extend the experiment, not on how well you follow directions.

You’d work about 10 hours each week on behalf of the Missourian (much of it in the newsroom, some of it out in the community), and to some extent, your projects could be customized to your interests. Your newsroom hours would be during regular business hours Monday through Friday and could be worked around your class schedules and other commitments. You’d probably be on duty for some sort of coverage two or three weekends over the course of the semester.

You don’t need to have the Missourian reporting class — just an equivalent class in your interest area. We’ve had students in magazine, convergence, broadcast, strategic communication and print & digital interest areas.

Don’t have time for or interest in the newsroom work? There’s also a one-credit version of the class, J4152,7152. You’d meet once a week and get half the lectures, with no staff component.

Questions? You can find me here. Another good source of information is Kelly Moffitt, the assistant director of the team, who’s been with the team since it started and who probably shares more of my brain than she’s comfortable with. Or ask one of this semester’s community outreach team members, one of the Fall 2012 folks, one of the Spring 2012 folks, or one of the inaugural Fall 2011 folks. I’m sure they’d be happy to speak their minds!

(And former students, if you’re reading this, feel free to use the comments to agree with, disagree with or contribute to what I say here!)


3 thoughts on “Want to take Participatory Journalism? Here’s what you need to know.

    1. Dave, if you took my class, it would be nerdier, there would be more cat videos, and we would have a blast.

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