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UNLV Journalism Professor Alicia Shepard Lectures on the Pitfalls of Journalism in the Digital Age

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Journalism professor and former National Public Radio Ombudsman Alicia Shepard hosted a lecture on journalism in the digital age on Wednesday.

Topics ranged from news delivery methods and the current media revolution to the dangers of social media.

Shepard made sure to emphasize the fact that the contrary to popular belief that the art of journalism is not dead. “Journalism is not dying, journalism is thrivin,g all that is different is that the delivery systems are changing,” Shepard said.

Shepard discussed the evolution of digital media from 1997 when she first started writing about it, citing that streaming 15 seconds of video was quite a challenge at the time.

Although at times this may seem like an overnight transformation, it was actually a rather long and arduous process according to Shepard who cited some interesting statistics during her lecture.

According to the UCLA Center for Communications policy, it took 46 years before 30 percent of homes were equipped with electricity, it took 38 years for telephone, 17 years for television and 7 years for the internet.

The topic that dominated Shepard’s lecture is the same concept that seems to be dominating the field of journalism, social media.

One of the problems with social media, as cited by Shepard, is that there is no code of ethics as with traditional mediums.

In October of 2009, Shepard stated that NPR came out with “Social Media Guidelines.” NPR is one of the only organizations with an ethics code that can be applied to online media. “We should have the same ethical guidelines online as we do for the legacy medium,” Shepard said.

Shepard spoke about the dangers of using social media as a professional to post opinions and the dangers of using social media as a source.

When it comes to posting personal thoughts or opinions on a personal social media account, and especially with a business account, Shepard had a few words of advice for those in attendance. “Before you hit the send button stop and think how this could be used against me,” Shepard said.

Shepard also advised when using social media as a source to make sure you verify the identity of a source and only use material on an individual basis when granted permission.

When gathering information from any source, whether online, in person or over the phone Shepard said to always ask, “How do you know that”?

The lecture concluded with a Q & A session where students and faculty were able to bend the ear of a seasoned journalist.

One of the questions asked was, “At what point is it o.k. to express your opinion as a professional?”

Shepard’s reply was, “As a journalist you give up certain rights and you have to be o.k. with that,” expressing your opinion being one of them.

Students seemed to enjoy the lecture, laughing throughout at Shepard’s jokes and throwing out questions as soon as she was finished speaking.

“It’s great to have Shepard here as a professor because she has a different experience in journalism than most,” said Azalee, UNLV journalism major.

The moral of the story Shepard shared with students, staff and faculty on Wednesday was simple. In a world with such advanced technology everyone needs to be careful, those in the journalism world even more so.

“There is no such thing as privacy, the mic is always on,” Shepard said.


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