Anyway, journalism students need to keep abreast of current events and industry trends. They should view all formats – print, television, radio, online, mobile, etc. – every day. They should know well the websites of their hometown newspaper, a national media company and the major news site that covers where they attend school. They should also take in all their various campus student media and news from a community or alternative paper.
Alas, what college student has time for all that every day? Moreover, some students, if not most, will only do what's required for the best possible course grade. Not to worry, though. I have developed a solution that meets everyone's needs: Assigning each student a news media website as a semester-long beat. Every student writes a blog post each week concerning their website's successes and misfires and based on class discussions.
This semester's beat assignments for #loweclass #digital: Chicago Tribune, The Virginian-Pilot, The Arizona Republic, Los Angeles Times, Tampa Bay Times, The Plain-Dealer, NPR, The Miami Herald, The Tennessean, CBS News, The Times-Picayune, The Seattle Times, USA Today, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, ABC News and Time.
The beat for #loweclass #sports: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Los Angeles Times, Tampa Bay Times, Sporting News, The Denver Post, The Tennessean, Star-Tribune, CBS Sports, Yahoo Sports and Fox Sports. The beats for #loweclass #elections: The New York Times, NBC News, Politico, CNN and The Washington Post.
Four websites are duplicated among the #sports and #digital courses as that many students are taking both this semester. I typically don't assign The New York Times and The Washington Post as they are generally too good to not explore with all students in class. I made an exception this semester, however, because the #elections class is small and each student can have a supreme site for related coverage. Other websites used in past courses include those of The Baltimore Sun, Philly.com, The Oregonian, The Kansas City Star, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The Boston Globe. I try to stay away from sites that charge visitors to view their content. Too burdensome for students.
For the first weekly beat post, each student is expected to offer first impressions of the assigned website. I'm looking for evidence of a) having reviewed the site according to the seven criteria listed on my blog post image above, and b) writing ability -- particularly as it relates to Associated Press style, grammar, spelling and punctuation.
For the most part, the beat assignments have helped my students study how media companies present and share online all of their journalism, including, but not limited to breaking news, features, sports, special reports, multimedia (photography, video, audio, data visualization, etc.), blogs and other forms of social media. I'm looking forward to how my students this semester cover their course beats. It's worth 15 percent of their final evaluation. But my students know that this effort is wasted if only done for the grade. Depending on their individual effort, there's so much potential value for their career, whether that ends up being in a newsroom or somewhere else.