I teach high school journalism in an independent school and I am considering offering blogging as an option. What are the dangers?
Congratulations on your question! You are correct in recognizing that an important influence on the future of journalism is blogging, and the whole concept of “citizen blogger”. Journalism is no longer the bastion of a small group of elite writers, working for an editor or publisher who makes their own decisions on what stories make it, what headlines are above the so-called fold. Instead, it’s bloggers who are helping create the story, investigate the story and explore the ramifications and nuances.
Further, somehow, even in an independent school, I bet that at least one or two of your students already are blogging as it’s quite popular with the youthful cognoscenti!
So the plus side of blogging as part of a journalism class is immediately obvious: you can’t not do it.
But there are dangers too. The greatest danger I envision is that if your students are bloggers, they might get a lot more instant credibility online than they’re ready for. With a student paper, your readership is your student body and, maybe, their parents and peer group. Put that same newspaper online, however, and now millions of people can potentially read what your students have written.
This means that these other people on the Internet can link to them, tease them, criticize them, or even laud them and generate quasi-celebrity status. Imagine one of your students does a nice analysis of a contemporary issue, and it’s found by other bloggers and then linked from a few high-visibility blog authors. Then someone with an alternative viewpoint links to your student’s article and tears it apart. And that person’s article gets even more visibility.
Ready for that?
Maybe I’m being a bit paranoid, but in my experience, younger bloggers seem to forget that the whole world can read it, not just their buddies. Oh, and that it is persistent. Forever. Years from now, your students who seek jobs in the journalism world will have their earliest writings easily found by interviewers. Yet another angle.
Finally, there’s a lot more to blogging than writing a blog. If nothing else, I would absolutely encourage your class to learn how to read blogs and how to track discussions in the blogosphere.
And good luck to you and your class!