Web logs in J classes

May 8, 2006

Amara shared a good link with me about a research paper written by Eric Wiltse at University of Wyoming on web logs in journalism classes. The paper has some good discussion on blogs and how to integrate them as learning exercises in classes.

Eric Wiltse works with some of his studentsIn the paper he says that “college-level instruction is important to bring journalist standards to this growing medium.” Robert Mercer, in a recent JACC faculty listserve post rightly questioned whether blogs will be as wide-spread as some in the industry claim because the best ones, the ones likely to survive, are the ones that will be written by experts in the field of what is being written about. Should we even bother with blogs when we’re teaching entry-level stuff? Wiltse would answer yes.

Photo: Wiltse works with some of his students (from his UWyo web site).

The paper gave me ideas on how I might better include blogs in, say, my beginning newswriting class in the future. Some of the experiences he reports on in his paper I ran across in my experiment in newswriting this semester. I think I could have been clearer with a goal for the blog and in my instructions to the students. That’s one of the problems of a “just get started” philosophy. You shoot first and then learn about aiming.

Anyway, I think I’ll quote some passages from this paper in order to preserve some of what I found most meaningful. But to keep this blog entry short –something I’m learning with this blog– I think I’ll post them as comments to this entry.



  1. One of the helpful paragraphs in Wiltse’s paper was one that defined different types of blogs.

    “Blogs come in several forms. The microjournal blog, basically a diary, is the form used by most non-journalists. Notebook blogs are like journals with longer entries, such as essays. filte blogs are the most common type created by journalists. They include hyperlinks to other Web sites, and the blog writer posts opinons and observations about material on the other sites. A filter blog points “to sites, concepts, ideas, and products that its author thinks you should know about” (Ernst, 2003 –see Wiltse’s paper for the full reference).

    He later quotes Ernst again in defining a web log:

    “Ernst defines a web log is [sic] “an interactive database hosted on a Web server and manipulated by the scripts in the blogging package.” Blogs can be established on free or paid blog service sites, such as blogger.com, or software that can be installed on a server if the blogger wants to run his/her own site.”

  2. “The challenge for journalism instructors,” Wiltse says in his paper, “is to integrate blogs into the curriculum, both as a learning tool and a new form of media that students may encounter in the job place during internships and employment. Blogs’ emphasis on publication and audience make them useful for journalism educators, who may find students writing for the instructor instead of a general readership.”

    He also talks about the challenge of sloppy writing by students in blogs. “While the casual writing style may be appropriate for some blogging, journalists who blog should uphold journalistic writing standards to be taken as credible reporters.”

  3. In his paper he talked about experiments in his own classes in introducing students to blogs, including what seemed to work and what seemed not to work.

    I morphed what I liked about what he said and what motivates me and thought that next semester I might try 1) having each student in the newswriting class create his/her own blog rather than a class-wide blog where students who don’t participate can hide easier and 2) provide a focus activity. One of the things I want students to do is look at other college newspapers. I might have them blog on what kinds of stories they find in other publications or the presentation of stories in other publications. There are enough online newspapers among community colleges that they could find what they need all online if physical papers are not available.

    Wiltse: “The critiques should incorporate the theory, ideas and concepts covered in this class: i.e. ‘This bites’ or ‘This is good’ won’t do. The critique should discuss why the site is good or bad and what could be done to improve or change it.”

  4. Hi Rich. I was just ego-searching on the web for my own name and found your blog postings on using blogs in the classroom. I wondered how your experiences have worked. I’m still emphasizing blog writing in Online Journalism classes and have asked working journalists to comment on student blogs. Usually, the students find their comments “harsh” and “too critical” compared to those of fellow students. However, I find their comments to be the most useful to try to push students to improve their work.

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