Sunday, July 11, 2010

Options for New-Generation Journalists: MoJo and EnJo

by Pirongrong Ramasoota

“Google should be banned in journalism schools, if you ask me,” according to Benjamin J. Marrison, editor of the Columbus Dispatch, the 139-year-old newspaper that has been the dominant mainstream daily newspaper in Columbus, Ohio in contemporary history.

Marrison is highly critical of the “search-engining” nature of new-blood journalists who are, in his eyes, “efficient but lazy” and “fast but shallow.”

Evidently, the editor of this long-established publication does not admire the new phenomenon of journalism which reflects rising expectations for a “MoJo” a.k.a. mobile journalist.

A “MoJo” is a professional journalist who does all of the following almost simultaneously: taking notes, videotaping interviews and pictures, recording sound, sending SMS news via mobile phone or twitter, writing for different media, producing a journalistic piece that is applicable to all media platforms, creating personal as well as media blogs, and being active on online forums.

While Marrison does not dispute that upcoming reporters need to be technologically savvy, he still stresses a critical and curious mind that understands the labor and the craft of journalism. To him, old school skills of grammar, composition, and critical thinking as well as knowledge of the world and principal areas of their beats are key.

But more than possessing these valuable attributes, this editor also thinks that future journalists should also possess new ideas about information dissemination, or better yet, cutting edge ideas that will help shore up the ailing industry to the next level.

In other words, forthcoming reporters should also be EnJos or entrepreneurial journalists.

EnJos are journalists who know how to sustain the business of news and take this task into their own hands. In fact, a number of journalism schools have already picked up this trend. Journalism schools at CUNY and UC-Berkeley, and here at OU, for instance, have developed course with such titles as entrepreneurial journalism or journalism and online business models.

But are there things that Marrison might have overlooked?

Professional journalism has always thrived on the basis of a clear separation between the business and the editorial departments. If one is to become an EnJo, chances are the invisible wall between business and journalism will come crumbling down. That nagging question of conflict of interest will become highly visible as journalists begin to treat advertising as content and to balance business needs with integrity of editorial operation.

More importantly, if economic survival becomes a professional theme, how can one be sure that journalists will be able to maintain that much-desired watchdog role? Will this new trend turn them from watchdog to hunting dogs?

After all, hunting dogs, particularly ones that hunt to survive, will not watch out for anything but their prey!

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