Training to be Editor of the Public

Back when I was taking journalism courses (a dimly remembered pre-Googlian time before the dawn of the modern age of technology), we were taught about writing inverted pyramid stories, AP style, the basics of libel and First Amendment law, journalism ethics and the strange hieroglyphics of copying editing on paper (talk about lost arts).

Many journalists are adding a new role to their newsgathering skills, managing user generated content and creating community. I wonder if universities are teaching those skills? I wonder if anybody in newsrooms is doing organized training?

They’re certainly needed.

As news media organizations morph toward being more of an edited resource directory and community conversation leaders around issues, whole new skill sets are being required of journalists.

Journalists have never been the customer service department: “We don’t want that story in the newspaper.” Tough! … click.

Angela Connor, managing editor of user-generated content at one of the pioneering TV stations on the Web, says her jobs in media have always involved stress, but managing UGC content has brought its own, new kind of stress to the job – including death threats, battles with trolls, hateful emails and calls to her supervisors from anonymous users.

I suspect she was not quite prepared for that role in the broadcast journalism program at Bowling Green State University.

Managing users and their content is part policy, part cheerleader, part host and part art. Connor found a quote from Flickr community manager Heather Champ that captures many of the issues:

Being a community manager is like being a pinata. People beat you with sticks and you still have to give them candy.

I’d say this goes for anyone who manages user generated content, not just community managers. How is your organization developing people for these skills?