Teaching Multimedia Journalism

Facebook dominates TJ social media

For one of the top high schools in the nation, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology is still heavily dependent of Facebook for just about everything.

During the school year, I teach three sections of English 9, Journalism 1-4, Photojournalism and Broadcast Journalism at the prestigious magnet school for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). During the summers, I travel around the country teaching at yearbook workshops; it was at these workshops that I discovered Facebook is no longer cool and that most teenagers no longer use it.

Except ours.

During freshman orientation, students who do not have a Facebook account are encouraged to get one. Some of our clubs use Facebook as their sole means of communication. Events are planned and publicized. Messenger serves as the primary mode of communication among students, who will also use it as an excuse for why group projects do not get completed.

“Joey doesn’t have Facebook, so it was really hard to communicate during the project.”

Perhaps it is a sign of my age, but I find this mind-boggling. Then again, if nationwide trends are taken into account, perhaps I’m infinitely more hip than my students.

I am a fan and frequent user of social media. I like Instagram to share photos of things that are going on in my life; I like Twitter to craft pithy 280-character epiphanies and post ridiculous GIFs. I never understood Snapchat, but I understood enough to know that when Kylie said it was dead, I no longer needed to worry about learning how to use it.

Page 9 of the first issue of tjTODAY after the staff switched from a traditional boadsheet to a magazine format. Students thought it was important to let the community know where they could find the publication on social media and the web.

My journalism students are becoming more and more social media savvy. I have a social media manager for the first time this year, and he takes his job very seriously. We’ve merged our publications’ Twitter and Instagram feeds, so now he runs the Instagram account for TJ Media, which covers yearbook, broadcast, newsmagazine and web. We’re making use of Instagram stories for storytelling, advertising, reminders, and Twitter has become a place where we try to actually break news. One of the main things I’ve gleaned from the reading is that Twitter is the best place to break news, and then you can expand upon it on the web – or even on Twitter.

This school year, we have posted to Facebook just 14 times. Of those 14 posts, three were requests for students to fill out surveys. Two were cover photo updates, four were yearbook sales advertisements, two were club photo reminders, two were course recruitment ads, and one – JUST ONE – was a post featuring content posted on the website.

We know that nearly every student at our school uses Facebook on a daily basis, and frequently throughout the day. We know what time of day they use it the most (4:15pm when everyone is on the bus heading home). We are simply not utilizing the medium where our student body lives.

This takes me back to the idea of Facebook. Another thing that resonated for me in our reading was the idea that we need to meet our community where they are. And the TJ community is still on Facebook.

So as much as I dislike Facebook these days, my opposition doesn’t matter. I want to learn more about how my students can make the most effective use of Facebook, not only to advertise and remind, but also to inform and educate.