Yesterday I took the first session of a new module, Weblogs: Introduction to Theory and Practice, which is aimed at PR and journalism students; most turned out to be doing PR. According to Lewis and PR Week ours is one of only seven PR programmes in the UK to address new media in this context - although this is hotly contested by debutant PR blogger Derek Hodge.
They are second years so most have a fair idea of my Delivering the New PR and EuroBlog work, but they were still not quite sure what to expect from the module (- neither am I!). We started off with a wide ranging chat about where they got news from. The answers were interesting, not least because as Tom Murphy has pointed out, our 'news' comes from so many different sources, and because they had a reluctance to regard the topical information they looked out for as 'news' - as opposed to gossip, or even sports results. It was instantly clear that, although they are second years with a fair grounding in media, they subconciously at least, regard news as the stuff that goes in serious newspapers.
Not that many of them really read newspapers. After making initial lists, we named the stories that had caught our attention, and tried to work out where our information came from. The top stories included the baby killed by rottweilers, Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond's high speed crash, and Cherie Blair's (alleged) 'lie' comment. Most people used web news sites, with the BBC comfortably the most popular, some said word of mouth, one got news alerts on his mobile, several read Heat, Closer and other magazines, a fair number heard their news accidentally on the radio, often a local station that just happened to be on. Most had the feeling they learnt about significant events in real time (as opposed to being driven by a daily news cycle dictated by newspaper publication). Interestingly, they didn't initially volunteer magazines as news sources, but once broached they were quick to swap favourite stories).
Although only one person had a MySpace account, almost everyone was engaged with some sort of social media sharing and content creation - even if they didn't immediately realise it.
Over the next 13 weeks they will be creating their own blogs; it will be fascinating to see where this takes them - and me.
- The module aims to develop:
1. A critical understanding of the cultural and social impact of web logs on traditional journalism and public relations.
2. An ability to create, write and maintain a basic web log.
3. An ability to critically evaluate the strengths, weaknesses and impacts of web logs in a commercial environment