A new course offering from DePaul University in Chicago will teach journalism students how Twitter can be used in the newsroom. The class's objective will be to instruct future journalists how to sift through all the information that is available through social media sites like Twitter, specifically as it relates to uncovering breaking news and verifying the authenticity of amateur sources.
The course will be taught by alumnus Craig Kanalley, a digital news intern at the Chicago Tribune and founder of the web site Breaking Tweets, which manually aggregates tweets related to news stories. Not surprisingly, Kanalley's students will also be contributing to Breaking Tweets.
While an entire course dedicated to Twitter seems a bit excessive, there are certainly plenty of lessons to be learned for journalists using the microblogging site. Even professional reporters can be fooled by impersonators on the site, as in the case of Britain's newspapers quoting an account attributed to foreign secretary David Milibrand that was actually run by two students. The Twitter explosion following the recent contentious election in Iran provides an excellent example of breaking news coming from social media.
DePaul also offers other courses related to new media and the changing landscape of the journalism industry, including classes in entrepreneurial journalism and reporting for converged newsrooms.
Many journalism schools have embraced social media as they redefine their curricula to represent the kinds of tasks graduates will be expected to perform in the working world. A recent Mashable column by Columbia University student Vadim Lavrusik highlighted the ways journalism programs have integrated lessons on sites like Twitter and Facebook into their courses. Lavrusik's examples go beyond breaking news and crowd sourcing to building a personal brand and the ethical questions raised by journalists using social media.
It is clear j-schools will have to adapt to keep up with changing technology. DePaul's course on Twitter represents just one example of that trend. Armed with that technological know-how, tomorrow's journalists will be able to transition smoothly into digital newsrooms wherever they choose to work.