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The Earth is flat

May 17, 2006

Took a handful of students to listen to NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman talk about globaization last night. It was the last in the 2006 LA Music Center lecture series. What a powerful speaker! He presented an edge-of-the-seat message for 90 minutes without a single note in front of him. Of course, his talk was an outline of his very long book “The Earth is Flat.”

Got home and immediately downloaded it from Audible.com as part of my $20-a-month membership. Would have cost about $50 otherwise.

Thomas FriedmanThe message from the book had me spooked. I’m an innovative guy. I like to think I’m ahead of the curve. Instead, I now feel like the guy who is running away from attacking hungry bears. My only solace is that I’m a bit faster than the guy next to me. If the bears are hungry enough, though, it will only delay the inevitable.

For instance, I feel sorry for the journalism teacher today who has not embraced distance education yet. Some of us old fogeys who plan to retire in the next five to 10 years are hoping to get out before the bear catches us. I’ll make it, because I’m running faster than most. But those who plan to be around for a while won’t make it. Much of what we do CAN be outsourced to others who have embraced teaching distance education because there are entrepreneurial bears who will figure out how to do it. I figured it out and embraced it years ago. I haven’t figured out exactly how to do the newspaper through DE yet, but I can even imagine the advising of a student publication being insourced by an outfit who will put together a writing specialist, a photo specialist, a printing specialist and a design specialist who will team up to provide our service to students to multiple schools.

Not the same, you say? Maybe not, but it might be adequate for an administration who wants a school paper but wants to avoid long-term benefits that must be paid to a tenured employee for what is a traditionally low-enrollment program. I think such a group could cobble a decent set of multiple student newspapers. You could even use an abundance of designers at one school to design the paper at another school. Technology has opened the door for a distributed operation that creates a local paper.

And journalism teachers who are putting off introducing new forms of storytelling, such as blogging, podcasting and web editions of the publication, may be setting themselves up to be caught by the bears, to say nothing of what such reluctance is doing to their students’ futures.

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