Delivering the Fundamentals

Once this was state of the art technology.

As I look over the syllabus for the communications class I’m about to begin teaching at American University, it’s evident that technology has forced a change in the curriculum.

No longer can universities send students into the world equipped only to write for print, broadcast or public relations. That’s the way it was not so long ago; students picked a lane and began specializing as soon as possible. And they stayed in their lanes.

Today’s technology has put a messaging arsenal in the hands of communicators, and students expecting to find work better understand tools, strategy and messaging.

Not that we should diminish the importance of fundamentals. Quite the contrary. I will stress precision and clarity this semester. We will work on speed without sacrificing accuracy.  We will drill to ensure that the writing is timely, relevant, and engaging.

At some point I will steer them to this website and others like it, and we will touch on writing for the web, updating online, writing blog posts and crafting video scripts. We will discuss what makes a good headline and a bad cutline.

We will look at associated Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, and YouTube pages, and talk about what works and why. Someone will mention good fundamentals, and I’ll smile to myself because I’ll know they’re on the right track.

You can stay up all night perusing all the social media tools now available. Long before dawn, it will be apparent that while the delivery vehicles change, the fundamentals remain the same. And you better get them right. At least that’s my view. What’s yours?

11 Comments so far »

  1. Marie Harbon said,

    Wrote on August 31, 2011 @ 2:36 pm

    Definitely a syllabus for survival in the modern age! Understanding social networking media is the key to getting a piece of work or brand out there.


    stevepiacente Reply:

    Right on point. Thanks, Marie.


  2. Collette Scott said,

    Wrote on August 31, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

    Life brings change, from the stone age to the bronze age, so on and so forth. The technological age is just another way that humanity boils down to ‘survival of the fittest’. It is necessary to master in order to succeed. Nice post!


    stevepiacente Reply:

    Thanks, Collette, and well put!


  3. Christine Nolfi said,

    Wrote on August 31, 2011 @ 3:51 pm

    I worry that in the blitz of the media age, young adults enter the world without learning the fundamentals. I worry that many can’t read with depth. In 1950, the average American ten year old had a command of 40,000 words. Today? The average is 10,000 words. Many young adults enter college in need of remedial English simply to survive freshman coursework.

    Continue to stress the fundamentals, Steve. Mass communication shouldn’t become massively shallow.


    stevepiacente Reply:

    Nice, Christine. I’m going to use that but will be sure to give you credit!


  4. Sean K said,

    Wrote on August 31, 2011 @ 7:48 pm

    Great post. I sometimes shudder to think of the mess I would have made of things in college if I had been able to communicate as they can today. Love what you have to say, particularly about the fundamentals remaining the same.


    stevepiacente Reply:

    Thanks, Sean, I do believe that time spent on the basics will be rewarded in the end.


  5. Laura Reese said,

    Wrote on September 1, 2011 @ 1:35 am

    More than a decade ago, I graduated from OSU with my MA in Journalism. While most of my coursework was in PR, thankfully, I took other classes in newspaper writing, communication, and international relations.

    After working in PR for several years, I ended up in TV news (producing, editing, assignment desk, reporting, & anchoring).

    There is no doubt that the fundamental skill set I acquired at OSU (and an ability to embrace change) helped me succeed in TV news. Every day, my job was so much more than writing copy — it was putting together concise, attention-grabbing stories, thinking fast, making hard decisions, checking facts, and backing it all up with the right video.

    Steve, mastering fundamentals makes all of the difference!


    stevepiacente Reply:

    An inspiring and instructive story, Laura. Wish you were in DC to tell it to my students!


  6. Laura Reese said,

    Wrote on September 3, 2011 @ 6:31 pm

    Hey, If Mark and I make it up to DC sometime, I’d love to!!!



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