Using Facebook and Google to run a student newsroom

I teach a second-year ‘Fundamentals of Reporting’ class at Carleton University’s j-school –  but often I’m learning just as much from the students.

These past three weeks, we’ve been running ‘newsroom days’ – students come in with a story, and then head out for the day to chase another, putting out a publication at 5 p.m. The class is large enough that we actually put out two publications at the end of the day, with students alternating roles between Managing Editor or desker and reporter.

This year, Facebook and Google played key roles in putting out our student publications at the end of the day.

After they learned who was in their group, a member of each newsroom created a closed Facebook group.  It became a way for each desk’s acting assignment editor there wasn’t any double-plating (duplication) of stories, and kept everyone up to date.

Case in point:

These Facebook groups also functioned as an emergency communication platform when a managing editor needed to get a hold of one of his reporters.

“Her cell phone was dead, so I just Facebooked them.”

Once stories were filed, they were shared using Google Docs between editors. This allowed for real-time collaboration during the editing process.

Note: The first week, we tried to produce our publications using Google Docs, but they kept crashing when more than one person tried to make changes. (It’s unclear if this was a wi-fi issue, or a Google Docs issue) In subsequent weeks we used MS Publisher and Word (we wanted to keep these in a closed environment, so we avoided the blogosphere.)

Google+ fans might wonder why the students didn’t create a Google group. It’s a good question, but I can tell you this: only 15 per cent of the class had a google account at the start of our newsroom days, and I spent some time walking them through how to use a Google Doc.

But the entire class is on Facebook.

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