On Thursday, fellow Seattle reporter Kirsten Grind and I led a session on blogging at the University of Washington Journalism Day.
The annual daylong seminar, sponsored by the Washington Journalism Education Association, draws high school journalism students from around the state. The 800 participating teens could opt to attend sessions on everything from opinion writing to media ethics to news reporting.
In our classroom, Kirsten and I wanted to share with students how to write a blog, how to draw readers to a blog, and how to get paid to blog. Both of us blog professionally – I for the Washington News Council and running publications, and Kirsten for the Puget Sound Business Journal.
Before the class arrived, we commented to each other how such a session would not have existed when we were in high school. Even though we are both still relatively young in the professional world (age 31), the word blog hadn’t even been invented when we graduated from high school in 1997. I remember a class at my alma mater, Shorewood High School, called “What Is the Internet?”
Not so with the high school students we faced. Kirsten and I opened the session by asking where they found their news. The first response was Twitter and the second Facebook. NPR online, National Geographic online, and The New York Times online came later. Few students said they picked up a print newspaper. I immediately thought that if I asked a room of individuals my father’s age the same question, Twitter and Facebook would not likely appear at the top of the responses, if at all.
Kirsten and I also found many of the students were already immersed in the world of blogs, but more for personal reasons than news consumption. Most reported reading blogs written by their friends and acquaintances, or as one student put it, “blog stalking.” When they venture into blogs created by strangers, the sites most likely revolve around food, fashion, or music. The students saw blog reading as something fun to satisfy their own interests and curiosities.
While few students now read or produce news blogs, discussion indicated this may be soon coming. Just one group of students, from Roosevelt High School, currently produces a blog for their school newspaper. They said they regularly post short news updates, quirky features, multimedia clips, and other content that wouldn’t fit well in the print edition.
While the Roosevelt group were the only ones already news blogging, a number of other students said their high school newspaper staffs were beginning to discuss starting a blog. They expressed interest in learning about how to write an effective blog and how to maximize page views.
For Kirsten and me, the session provided an interesting window into the mentality of today’s high school students. I have no doubt that blogging will become a bigger part of high school journalism in short time, as these students are already so tech savvy and equipped to do so. Once they graduate, those same skills will no doubt be invaluable in the rapidly changing media world.
As if to further drive home the above observations, I noticed while preparing to post this blog on Friday morning that one of the students from yesterday had sent Kirsten and me a note. Via Twitter.