Project blogging and categories

RedMorals a blog set-up to track the hypocrisy of the “so-called moral majority.” Quite aside from its content RedMorals showcases an excellent use of categories for a project blog.

The unnamed blogger set out with a very definite purpose and judging from the datelines they have has obviously put the whole project together in a couple of days. He writes:

A lot of people, red and blue, seem to think that the Republicans rode the red wave of morals in the Election of November 2004…..So I think it’s only fair that we examine the morals of this so called “moral majority.” There’s a lot of catching up to do on a lot of people, but I’m going to do my best to chronicle the morals of this alleged oh-so-red “moral majority.” Even as I was posting my first entry, another “pissed off progressive” noticed, and referred to it as a Watchblog. I like that: The Red Moral’s Watchblog is hereby inaugurated.

What is interesting is that every entry is categorised against a series of what/when/where/who categories. So if I want to find out about religious leaders I can go to the “who” categories (red religious leaders/politicians/staffers etc), or if its a time period or type of scandal that I want I can search against the dated “when” categories (by year) or the “what” categories (abortion/money/drugs etc).

Blogs versus CMS

Fascinating post from John Kruper’s The electric lyceum blog about relative advantages of blogs and CMSs like Blackboard. He makes the point that blogging as a course management tool actually represents a major paradigm shift:

And so we see why educators are so excited by blogs. For the first time, they have an easy-to-use tool that provides them and their students an authentic voice in the online classroom previously dominated by syllabi and class notes. And equally important, this newfound voice isn’t a glued-on afterthought one finds by jumping out to the “class bulletin board,” but rather is an equal citizen to the professor’s powerpoint slide, word document, and other forms of traditional “course content.” What on one had sounds insanely trivial is in fact a paradigm shift in online learning environments: blogs empower students to be co-publishers of the course and to easily comment on, react to, and debate any (teacher or student) contributed element.

However the traditional systems like Blackboard are much better at easily managing courses and the co-ordination aspects on line learning processes, ie. providing course information, integrated email lists etc.

With the rising buzz about blogs in education they will probably be introduced as an add on to traditional CMS software at some time in the not too distant future. However for the moment dual occupancy seems the way to go: handling admin matters in Blackboard, which provides the course interface across all university courses, and blogs as the primary learning environment because of its flexibility and student focus.

Blogs and journalism education

It is interesting that in my searches I have found lots of stuff about blogs and higher education, lots of stuff about bloggs and writing courses, lots of stuff about blogs and journalism but almost nothing about blogs in journalism education. This is not surprising because blogging is still suspect in journalism although this is changing rapidly.

One journalism course blogg that I did find from Seaton Hill University has an interesting discussion about the old chesnut: “Is blogging Journalism?”

When bloggs take the lead in showing how 60 Minutes was duped then this appears to be a silly question. The recent debate over the authenticity of the documents used by Dan Rather, in his story about President Bush’s service in the National Guard, has been a blogger led story. Dan Gilmour sums up the sequence of events that led to bloggers exposing one of America’s most senior reporters. He comments:

Yet I’m also convinced that the emergent online community known as the “blogosphere” – the world of Weblogs, or blogs – has played an essential role in this bizarre sequence of events. The major shift, however, is one of perception, less in what happened than its high visibility and velocity.

Jay Rosen at Press Think is one of the best bloggers about journalism on the web and he has posted one of his typically masterful essay/posts about the Rather incident. He points out it is about much more than the triumph of the blogs:

We’re in the theatre of reputation, and Rather is himself the major character, although it was supposed to be not Dan Rather under trial but fellow Texan George W. Bush. Big Journalism is involved. Kid Internet. Military Service. Democratic Activists. The Liberal Media. The Bush Clan. Texas Power Circles. The DNC? To say “this is theatre” is not to diminish the story, but to suggest why it’s grown so big.

Rosen and Dan Gilmour have a great conversation about blogging, the web and journalism here . Gilmour says:

The first thing we’d need to do is listen, pay attention to what is being said. To really get out of the lecture mode that we’ve been in and to recognize that something new is going on that will benefit not just our journalism — which of course we want to do — but benefit the people who are reading or listening to or viewing our journalism. Those are the people who we say we want to serve. So, the conversation part of it — the listening part, the responding part — is not just for journalists. It’s for all of us, it’s for everybody. And it comes back to what I’ve made a kind of a cliché in my own world, which is that my readers know more than I do.

It seems that resistance to blogging/web-based initiatives in both journalism and in education may result from this inability of its practitioners to “get out of the lecture mode”.

While educators like to make a distinction between different approaches to learning, (deep/surface; holistic/atomistic; connected/isolated) journalism academics such as James Carey have made similar distinctions about journalism. Carey famously drew a distinction between the transmission model and the ritual model of communication. One is about information transfer and the other is about fellowship and meaning making. Carey argues that the transmission model is dominant in “objectivity” obsessed modern journalism. This leads to a focus on the “what” but not the “why”.

Bloggs and web-based communication/collaboration destabilize these models.