That was the opening salvo at the alumni weekend of the Columbia Journalism School this spring. The theme of the weekend was, “The Future of Text.”
I earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia in the 60s. I’d never gone to an alumni weekend, but with newspapers, magazines and books expected to became extinct in our lifetimes, the choice is clear: adapt or die.
Columbia is determined to reinvent journalism. They’ve set up a new dual degree master’s program in journalism and computer engineering. (I’ve never met a journalist who could be an engineer, but I guess a new breed is mutating)
Columbia also created a department of Internet journalism, and they’re running boot camps in social media skills for their students and alumni.
It’s not enough to do great writing, they say. “You have to build, curate and enhance your online brand.” The school’s tech guru, Sree Sreenivasan, says “We still teach reporting, writing and storytelling, but your work has to be seen and your readers have to evangelize for it.”
I sign up for Sree’s two-hour workshop in social media. He says the Big Three are: facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I’m already on two of them, so I think: I can do this.
He says the N.Y. Times just appointed its first social media editor, “to listen to social media and evangelize for it in the newsroom.”
Social media, he says, is where “radio was in 1912. TV was in 1950. The Internet was in 1996.”
Facebook has 400 million users. “It’s one of the biggest time sinks in history,” Sree says, and “it will continue to grow astronomically and consume people’s time.”
But here’s the problem. They’re constantly changing how facebook works and they don’t tell you when they make changes!
“Facebook is not helpful, transparent or easy,” Sree says. SO WHY DOES FACEBOOK RULE? Why doesn’t someone build a friendlier mousetrap?
Sree says you need a facebook strategy or you’ll get overwhelmed. I’m already there. You confirm a dozen friends and overnight, you have 100 requests for friends and your wall is so full you can’t read what’s on it.
If you write a book, Sree says, you need a special facebook page for it and video to promote it. “So start taking videos while you interview people and write,” he says. “YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world, and you must have your work on YouTube.
He moves on to LinkedIn, whose primary purpose is networking for jobs. “You should be on it before you need it,” Sree says.
Okay, I’m on LinkedIn and YouTube (not well), but the site I fear and loathe and so far refuse to join is Twitter. He says the maximum post on twitter is 140 characters. “Every newspaper headline is 80 to 90 characters and it’s able to tell you what the story is,” he says. He keeps his own tweets to 120 characters, so they can be re-tweeted in a chain.
Re-tweet? That’s one of a barrage of foreign terms he spits out: Hash Tag, Tweet Deck, bit.ly, Hoot Suite, Mashable. I take notes faster and faster until it feels like I’m going under.
After two hours, I need resuscitation. Sree says, “Don’t feel overwhelmed and don’t feel pressured. Social media is still in its infancy. Just take one step at a time. But do take a step.”
Heeding his advice, I’m going to remodel my blog and will be posting on all things about Life after 50.
PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT. How are you adapting to social media?