The New Water Cooler: My talk with UGA students on New Media

Yesterday, I had a great time talking with a group of students from a summer program at the University of Georgia on new media. I met with them via skype and told them the importance of becoming social media savvy now before it becomes a prerequisite to today’s journalism jobs. If an employer sees that you are using new media NOW to enhance your work and connect with others, they can trust that you will continue using it on the job.

Only a handful of students in the class had active Twitter accounts, while many of them said they were on Facebook. It got me thinking about journalism education for high school and undergraduate students and how new media should be incorporated into the classroom.

I remember telling them that I feel one of my best tools for networking, getting my work out there, and learning about topics in my field had to be Twitter, although that wasn’t always the case. People must not mistake Twitter as the value added, but rather, the tool to create value-added content and personal branding.

I just started using Twitter to my advantage this semester when I learned that most major journalists and news organizations talked to each other on it as the new virtual water cooler.

I started noticing the web of connections with D.C. journalists, and I’m now observing this trend with college students, NGOs and political groups. Whenever news breaks or if something goes viral (cough the Old Spice proposal and Paul the Octopus), you can bet the Twitter community is actively chirping about the issue with one another through @’s and hashtags. Instead of having a “behind the scenes” page on news sites, they might as well go to the Twitter pages of its reporters for the real deal.

I’ve made “friends” on Twitter more than Facebook because Facebook is a tool I use to talk to existing friends. Through Twitter, I have gotten breaking news from multiple sources, got some tips on stories for work and met people that have been valuable allies in my journalism career.

So what can Twitter do for you? Just like any social media tool, it has the potential to bring life to discussion and create a spot for you among colleagues in your profession. Or it can be a fun way to stay in touch with friends and tell the world what you’re up to every minute of the day.

For young, aspiring journalists out there going through their journalism courses in high school and college–you cannot ignore the possibilities of new media. It’s important to learn the fundamentals of journalism (writing, storytelling, interviewing, capturing a moment), but what will put you ahead of the dinosaurs is your knowledge of web, mobile and social media.

To hear their report on my interview, visit their blog. Here’s what I said on using your degree to pursue journalism:

“A 2009 DePauw University graduate, Nekoomaram took some time to talk about training for a journalism career. She studied English writing and history at the liberal arts school, located in Greencastle, Ind. She explained that her English classes helped to develop her writing schools, something she sometimes felt gave her an edge over her classmates in American University’s Master of Arts in Journalism program.

The history “helped with understanding context,” especially when it came to Persian affairs, a particular interest of Nekoomaram’s due to her heritage. “The news doesn’t give you the history [as a reporter]. You’re the one who has to do the research about the issue you’re talking about. You need to know your topic,” she explained.”

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