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Written by UT students for UT students, tnjn.com is not only a bouillabaisse of reporting on all sorts of tasty on- and off-campus subjects, it also represents a journalistic medium with so much potential that it just keeps unfolding and reinventing itself.
Short for "Tennessee Journalist," tnjn.com is a community dot.com where a reader, on any given day, can bounce between a story about deep space (for example, a hollow on Mars named after a Knoxville coffee shop) to inner space (remembrances of a grandfather's garden) to physical space (changes to Neyland Stadium) to personal space ("How Facebook can suck the life out of your life").
Web journalism engages all of the great and time-honored tools of news and opinion writing but also, because of its multiple dimensions, orchestrates images (still and video), slide shows, audio recordings, and principles of design that, unlike the printed page, involved clicks, jumps, links and hyperlinks. Not to mention reader feedback ad commentary, which can be displayed right along with the original article.
Creating a news Web site that students could run was a high priority for Jim Stovall, one-time editor of The Daily Beacon, wen he returned to UT to teach journalism in 2006. "Today's students grew up with cell phones, computers, and other high-tech devices. So when they think news, they think Web," he says. "It's imperative that UT's School of Journalism and Electronic Media think that way too."
In less than a year since conceptualization, tnjn.com has ben come a vital, plugged in, curriculum-based teaching tool and a lively player on the campus journalism scene. A content management system allows students—and any student can join the staff—the flexibility to input copy, photos, cutlines, headlines, and other elements.
"We get to dabble in a medium that is taking over," says tnjn.com News Editor Sarah Jane Nutt. "Other university-related journalistic outlets—Scoop, The Daily Beacon, WUTK, the Volunteer Channel—provide great hands-on experience, but tomorrow's print and broadcast journalists are going to have to learn the ropes of the online world."
"The school needed a medium in which students could begin to understand that a news Web site is not just a newspaper on your computer screen," says Stovall. "We are going to be using a lot more audio and video this year, and one of the things I am encouraged is that students think creatively about their information, their tools, and their audience. I frankly do not know where this thing is headed - and that's the exciting part."