E-journalism seeks to educate, engage and empower

E-journalism seeks to educate, engage and empower

Loyalist College professor explains how online technology transforms journalism

Rob Washburn says e-journalism allows reporters to utilize the tools of the Internet and is the next wave of how to tell the news.

Washburn, a journalism professor at Loyalist College in Belleville, uses three words to teach students about journalism: educate, engage and empower.

The paradigm shift begins when the audience stops being treated as a customer and starts being considered as a community, says Washburn.

“To do that — instead of inform, explain, interpret — what we need to do is to educate, engage and empower,” he says.

The root of the word educate is “to fill” whereas inform implies a hierarchical relationship between the journalist and the audience, says Washburn.

“We want to fill people with information, we want them to explore it,” he says. “The Internet helps us facilitate that because the Internet is not like a newspaper where you have limited space and it’s expensive to publish.

“(The Internet is) really cheap, you can put up a lot of information, you can hyperlink information, you can use multi media, you can use interactivity – all to help facilitate this type of education.”

After educating people, the next step is to engage them in a meaningful discourse, says Washburn. Instead of debate on the issue the intention is to engage the audience in good conversation.

“E-journalism (seeks) to facilitate conversation, discussion, building consensus, so that what happens is we are able to democratically move the process forward,” says Washburn.

In order to achieve this goal, there are many tools the Internet offers that fit into people’s lifestyles, says Washburn. Examples include mobile text, live and archived video-streaming, BlackBerry messaging and RSS technology.

These types of technology help to reach people who have busy lives and keep them engaged with the news, explains Washburn. Once they are engaged they feel empowered to do something – to continue the conversation, perhaps through an online forum.

“Through the collective effort of engaging and educating people to become smart and more proactive then suddenly they become empowered to do something,” he says. “That’s what we want people to do. It takes us back to a time when newspapers made a difference in people’s lives.”

Writer Bio

Jennifer Neutel's picture
Jennifer Neutel

Jennifer Neutel is a Story Advocate and Generative Journalist at Axiom News. She completed her Bachelor of Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa in 2006, and joined Axiom News in 2007. She has taken on a variety of roles at Axiom including new social media intiatives and has a passion for creating strengths-based questions that can lead to positive change.

Contact Jennifer: jennifer@axiomnews.ca, or 705-741-4421 ext. 26.

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