NYU hires Winer; others should follow the lead

A few months ago, I read of an old friend and colleague leaving the news business to take a position teaching journalism at a big university. That’s the way it’s been done since the beginning. You practice for awhile, then you teach. But I wondered at the time if this was really the kind of person we need teaching budding journalists today. I remember the guy as very competent but also very old school. “Big‑J” is what we used to call it.

Dave WinerThat’s why an announcement last week really got my attention. Jay Rosen, who is the chair of the Journalism Department at NYU, has hired Dave Winer as a visiting scholar and technical adviser. He explained it this way.

For me and the students of Studio 20 this is a major “get,” as the bookers for TV shows like to say. Our focus is on innovation in the news system and adapting journalism to the web. As a software developer and one of the proto-bloggers, Dave Winer has been an innovator from the moment his career began in the 1980s. As a co-founder of blogging, RSS and podcasting he is directly responsible for some of the disruptions that are shifting power to the users. This is a change that journalists need to recognize and adapt to without complaint.

…I’m betting that he can help us synthesize a new approach to doing J‑school, post-disruption. As technical adviser and visiting scholar (discipline: empower the users!) Dave will be sitting in on classes from time to time. He will be available to students as they tackle their own projects. Occasionally he will be hanging out at 20 Cooper Square with his laptop. You know… visiting.

I’m going to be following what Jay and Dave will be doing, because Dave Winer has a way of shaking things up for the better. He rubs some people the wrong way, but that’s because they don’t get his passion. He is the penultimate news consumer, and if you track his innovations over the years, you’ll come to the conclusion that he’s simply trying to make it easier to indulge his habit. And that’s why I have so much faith in what he’s calling “Year Zero for Journalism.” If anybody is going to be successful in reinventing journalism, they will have to begin with the consumer.

I’m teaching my ethics class again at UNT this semester, and the young men and women who’ve been my students eat it up. That’s because we’re talking about ethics in a networked world, not some canned program of traditional ethics. I’m proud to have been chosen to do this, and I think the university is pretty happy that I’m there, too.

Congrats, Jay, and good luck, although with Dave, I’m sure you won’t need it.

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