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It’s a given that technology is altering the news media and the way we consume and process information. What’s not a given is how to best prepare the future producers of news how to absorb these changes and adopt them in the service of all of us who count on the fourth estate to be on guard protecting a free society.

These questions face the new School of Journalism and Media Studies at San Diego State University, which had its official launch earlier this month. As part of this event, the Friends of Journalism and Media Studies Alumni chapter sponsored a competition to produce designs for an on-campus media lab that functions as a working newsroom where print, broadcast and online journalists, still and video photographers, and public relations practitioners will be trained in a synergistic, digital facility combining all of these disciplines. Read more about it here.

As an officer of the alumni chapter, it’s exciting to be a part of this project … and incredibly intimidating at the same time. Simply trying to absorb the changes hitting my profession these days (which seemingly changes by the hour) makes me want to take up carpentry.

We’re all fixated right now on the radical changes in the method of delivery: blogs, viral video, podcasts, RSS feeds. But it’s a distraction from more pressing questions about the content itself. How do we train the future communicators we’ll be counting on to deliver this information to decide what’s news?

As information is collapsed into shorter bits and bursts of news, critical thinking skills become more vital than ever. If you can only communicate one key message distilled from a flood of information, how do you help train someone in the judgment skills to figure out what that is?

I’d like Voice readers to tell me what you think. You can bet I have some strong ideas on the topic and I’ll weigh in over the course of the day. For starters, I’m not a big fan of majoring in journalism. (No, I didn’t).

I’m counting on the Café playing host to a spirited dialogue. After you…

— GAYLE FALKENTHAL

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