Review: Online Journalism Training in Paperback

Online Journalism Paperbacks 2010Books about online journalism are somewhat anachronistic in these days. Things change so fast in the internet that it’s hard to keep up with the pace on printed paper. You have to follow either a very basic approach, as Mark S. Luckie does in “The Digital Journalist’s Handbook” (2010). Or you have to be visionary and fast, as Mark Briggs attempts in “Journalism Next: A Practical Guide to Digital Reporting and Publishing” (2010). I had a look at both books.

Journalism NextI read Journalism Next (Mark Briggs) from cover to cover. Meaning: it was fun to read. More than that, I found plenty of rich content: practice examples, well structured “How to” lists and tips from contributing practitioners. The book covers the whole scope of online journalism from HTML basics to data visualisation and social media interaction. It also spends some time on working tools and strategies such as how to organize your e-mails.

A broad field of topics to be pressed between two paperback covers (360 pages). But Briggs manages to keep his writing to the point and to focus on the important aspects of each topic. He assumes that his readers already know the basics and builds on that – what I found very beneficial, as I don’t like digging through the obvious.

Inside "Journalism Next"Journalism Next covers the state of the art in online journalism and is up to date as much as a book can be that was written in 2009. It is fun to read because it complies with the rules for better writing that are taught in online journalism classes: Simple and crisp sentences, short paragraphs, sub-headlines and bullet lists, lots of illustrations and breakout boxes – and a smart navigation: Each chapter is structured in sections “What is it?”, “What’s next” and “Summary”. At the end of each chapter one finds a checklist to get going with what has just been learned.

What I was missing is a website that presents the links to sources used in the book and that adds latest developments.

Conclusion: Journalism Next is a book well suited for journalism students and teachers as well as journalists seeking an overview of the field or tips for their working routine. Don’t expect to read things you’ve never heard of before, however, Briggs has done a good job providing orientation in the maze of technologies and trends.

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Digital Journalist's HandbookThe Digital Journalist’s Handbook” (Mark S. Luckie) I haven’t explored to its full extend, I have to admit. Why? Too epical an approach for my taste. Luckie describes everything from the scratch, and he describes it in extensive prose. For example, the chapter “Writing for the web” begins like this:

“Journalism has existed for centuries, long before the computer, the typewriter, and even the reporter’s notepad. In that time, journalists frequently accented their writing with clever ledges, lengthy anecdotes, and elaborate words that require a dictionary to understand. The web has brought much of this complex writing to a halt.”

Luckie has a similar approach to illustrations in the book: The drawing of a video camcorder fills half a page, caption: “A typical digital video camera”; or we see the drawing of an USB port and plug compared to a FireWire gear.

This might be the right approach for absolute beginners, maybe hard core print journalists who reach out to the digital world, school teachers with basic understanding of online technology, first grade journalism students.

The book covers most relevant topics such as writing for the web, blogging, multimedia, social networking, data visualization and Flash.

I did find some useful hints, even though – as stated above – it took some effort to dig through the long texts. A good idea is the online extension of the book, a extended linklist with links to each chapter of the book (you only can access the lists through the URLs provided in the book).

Conclusion: Not for me, but maybe for readers with a more basic understanding of the topic. Still, as for me the book would be easier to skim if it was structured more reader friendly and if it’s writing style was more to the point.

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