[OLPC library] journalism and writing in general

Bob Stepno robby at stepno.com
Wed Jan 9 20:14:17 EST 2008

Seth & Edward, thanks for the warm welcome...

Apologies forthe length of this... Your notes, inspired more
blogs-and-journalism talking-to-myself than I intended and I'm left
with too little time to edit.

I'm jumping the gun... I'm just starting here... hoping to learn more
about the "Report" Activity project already in progress, which SJ
pointed me to last weekend...

On one level, journalism can teach basic lessons about observation,
asking questions, sorting  facts from opinions... and the XO could be
a tool for fact-gathering -- using sound and image recording, the
calculator and other XO Activities (and classroom /activities/ -- I do
wish the developers hadn't usurped that word).

Publishing is a complex issue, as any teacher given responsibility for
a "school newspaper" knows, even in a nation with a book of First
Amendment based law. I'm all for empowering the world's children, but
I'm wary of putting huge legal and ethical burdens on their teachers
without giving them conceptual tools and software to help...

Is the "Report" WordPress installation the one you're referring to,Seth?
(My own single-user WordPress testing goes on here:
I'm curious whether  the multiuser version you mention supports a
copy-flow or editing-process before publication. Is it designed for
"unedited voice of one person" blogging, or for collaborative
writing-and-editing? Is it being adapted to publish only to a "meshed"
neighborhood, to give selected students or teachers editoral control?
Does it allow installations to publish only within a class or group of
classes, schools, or school systems? Considering the XO's Python
roots,I wonder if anyone has explored developing something on a Django
platform, which also has Python snaking underneath.

But I'm drifting off-topic...

I've taught 'online journalism' classes since 1997, and have blogged
and written on the blogs-and-journalism topic since 2001 or so. (See
http://couranteer.com article list in the left column.)

One aspect of "journalism" that some bloggers undervalue is the
culture and colloborative process of newsroom decision-making,
including ethical discussions, content choices, quality control and
fact-checking *before* publication. That much, I think, would be a
fine thing to teach.

Even in the "pro"world, the newsroom system doesn't always work the
way we want, but it does provide some checks and balances... at least
when corporate ownership hasn't shrunken the news staff to the point
that there are too few collaborators and too many "stars" who lose
track of boundaries between fact, opinion, ego, entertainment,
celebrity and public service news...  Oops. Pardon my soapbox. (And my
own limited editing... I'm writing this essay ON my XO and my
more-than-half-century-old eyes and fingers are developing cramps...

Back to XO: The mesh-networking of XOs looks like a great way to teach
collaboration, carefulness and responsibility from the beginning....
especially important when teaching children.

(Hmm. I hear a distant 20th century media voice whispering, "use The
Mesh, Luke..."  and another echoing "with great power-of-the-press
comes great responsibility." Spiderman, Clark Kent or Dustin Hoffman
as Carl Bernstein? The children won't know them. But readers of this
list do.)

Ideally, the best reporters work with editors and each other to decide
assignments, set priorities, make ethical decisions, check facts,
communicate with "the audience" and anticipate community information
and entertainent needs. In the blog world "We" and "audience"

Adult bloggers sometimes take a publish-first approach, because they
simply aren't "meshed" with anyone... or assume they are being checked
and balanced by all of their readers, a process that can be
time-consuming, that can  turn into preaching to the choir, or
overamplify one side of an issue, or keep errors of fact in

But, as I was saying, those are adult issues and teachers must start
more simply with children... teaching about responsibility to "the
truth" can begin simply enough with identifying "fact questions"

(...like When? Where? How many? What size? Who says? How do /they/ know?)

... before the more difficult "What?" "How?" and "Why?" questions of
interpretation, analysis, opinion and motivation... all good to think
about, learn and teach... but I'll stop here...

Best new year wishes, new friends... I'll be less verbose when my own
classes resume Monday!

Bob Stepno

More information about the Library mailing list