Last week, I sat in on a class with a group of juniors and seniors studying journalism at a college that shall remain nameless. (To protect the guilty, as it turns out.) I expected them to grill me on why organizations like mine have been so slow to get with the times. I expected them to surprise me with the breadth and depth of the digital media they consume.
Instead, this group of 21- and 22-year-olds turned out to be remarkably traditional. They look occasionally at the print versions of my paper and others provided by the communications department, if only because professors force them. But it was the Web sites they regularly visit that floored me. Their answers: nytimes.com, oregonlive.com, Web sites for the Seattle papers, a smattering of TV station sites.
Huh? That's it? I pressed them for more, but came away with nothing. The idea of an increasing convergence between print, TV, radio and the Web -- and that they could no longer expect to work in one medium exclusively -- seemed to catch them off guard.
Granted, this was only one college and I spent only one evening with a handful of students. They may not be representative of the next generation of American journalists. But I fear, in fact, that they are. I fear that many of the nation's communications professors may be farther behind the curve than we are. And that scares me.