The New(s) Media: Old School? New School?

I recently attended a presentation sponsored by the Rockland County School Boards Association and the Rockland School Public Relations Association billed as “The New Media: Old School? New School?” There were numerous board of education members, school superintendents, and public relations personnel in attendance, and the panelists included the local media and school district public relations experts.

The conversations were rich with examples of how the print media has evolved and how the emergence of blogs and the “read/write web” have transformed a medium that had been a stable and predictable force for decades. In short, the ability for anyone to publish, comment, or post information changes the dynamic with which we have become accustomed.

As district leaders, it is important that we are aware of this paradigm shift and its implications, and that we use these new tools to our advantage. Now more than ever districts need to get their messages out in a timely and consistent manner, ensuring that unsubstantiated musings that are written in the “blogosphere” are balanced with the district’s formal messages. In short, as educational leaders we need to be out in front of the curve, consistently sharing the district’s vision and successes with our stakeholders.

A superintendent’s blog is one way to achieve this, and schools are beginning to recognize the benefits of this new medium.  In concert with this, the traditional and emerging media have an obligation to monitor these new district resources and use the latest tools (i.e. RSS aggregators) to stay fully informed,  reporting news and events through a variety of channels.

Two superintendents’ blogs (Dr. Joe Zambito of South Orangetown and Mrs. Debra Kaplan of Dobbs Ferry) were presented at the meeting, and it’s only a matter of time before more district leaders take advantage of these tools to ensure the public is presented with a balanced and accurate accounting of the district’s activities. Our own superintendent of schools, Dr. Howard Smith,  has a blog which provides him with a direct line of communication with a variety of stakeholders.

As our district leaders and the news media embrace these tools and improve the processes by which they share information, the community will benefit.

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